With the holidays very much in full swing, our workloads might be getting a little lighter, the days may be going by a little quicker and when we look around it is bright and sparkly with lights. This is not the reality for all though and many have endured some not so festive times this last year. We’ve endured 2 years of pandemic life that has changed the way we do most everything including the documented cases of burnout being at record levels and, if you live in BC, the natural disasters have probably touched you in some way in 2021. It would be odd if you weren’t feeling a little off with the excitement of the holidays mixing in with the hopelessness of the “What’s going to happen next?” nagging feelings. There are plenty of ways to push away overwhelming feelings, but one way, in particular, is proven to combat these feelings while positively influencing everyone around you.
al·tru·ism /ˈaltro͞oˌizəm/ noun
the belief in or practise of selfless concern for the well-being of others.
We all know the phrase “it is better to give than to receive” but did you know there is actual science to back this up? Recent studies have shown that altruistic activities lead to health benefits for the giver in a broad sense promoting greater life satisfaction and overall reduction of stress. More specifically, a study that was published in the journal Sleep Science Practice found that older participants, when answering positively to a survey on the idea of giving, were 63 percent less likely to experience sleep apnea, 52 percent less likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome and demonstrated an overall better quality of sleep – giving new meaning to another popular phrase, “whatever helps you sleep at night.”! Beyond restfulness, researchers have also seen those who prioritize giving enjoying lower blood pressure, less depression, increased life expectancies and just overall happiness.
According to the clinical director at Lock and Key Therapy in New York, Maria Romer Guzzetta LCSW-R, BCD, it is common sense, “You can’t be happy and sad at the same time so by giving you are choosing to be happy. There is no room for sadness,” Guzzetta says. “Giving and even smiling are contagious.” As a matter of fact, in 2014, research done at The Centre for Market and Public Organization in Bristol found that simply observing someone engaging in an act of charity, you are more likely to also give to those in need. Encouragement from observing those that we know can more than quadruple the chance that we will donate to a philanthropic cause.
We can’t deny that goodness and kindness breed more of the same and it’s doubtful anyone would argue that you can ever have too much of it. What can be overwhelming is choosing where to concentrate your efforts. We have compiled some ideas to help with deciding and hope that we can help you help someone else smile this holiday season and all year round!
SHORT TERM/HOLIDAY SPECIFIC IDEAS
- Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau does toy drives for children in need. Doing a drive with colleagues and/or family members can extend beyond the feel-good of a solo effort
- If you’re looking to help out our furry friends, you could set up a pet food drive for the BC SPCA’s Charlie’s Pet Food Bank. Food, treats, toys, beds and carriers are all in high demand.
- The Surrey Christmas Bureau’s Adopt-a-Family Program is a great way to bring your entire team together, taking responsibility for providing a family with Christmas day meals, as well as gifts and stockings for any children.
- The Union Gospel Mission Gifts for Hope runs a Christmas Hamper Store that benefits families in our community.
LONG TERM/YEAR-ROUND GIVING
- The Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society is always looking for volunteers, be it for their After-School Recreation Program or the Elder Wisdom Program. Cash donations are also a good way to show your support.
- The Vancouver Foodbank. As well as accepting donations via cash or cheque, they also have a group volunteer program where you can get an inside look at how foodbanks sort and distribute inside their warehouses.
- Not only does Covenant House have a backpack program where you can donate backpacks full of essentials to Vancouver’s at-risk and homeless youth, they also need donations all year. Deodorant, feminine hygiene products, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other everyday essentials are paramount to helping youth get back on their feet without adding to their worries.
- Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, similar to the Covenant House, also needs essentials. Travel size shampoo and conditioner, jackets and raincoats, winter accessories, long socks, bras of all sizes, new underwear, blankets, sheets and sleeping bags are needed, not only around Christmas, but every day.
2021 Disaster-Specific Giving
- Canada Helps has a page dedicated to highlighting charities that are providing relief efforts for the vicitms of the British Columbia wildfires and floods of 2021
Most points programs nowadays also allow you to donate your points to a good cause. Some popular examples:
Whichever option you choose, know that you’re not only making a big difference in someone’s life but you are also actively participating in a very healthy habit for yourself. This doesn’t have to be just for the holiday season although with most of us having more than we need in the relative sense, it may prove beneficial to forego traditional gift-giving or party costs to divert time and funds to a local good cause. Giving a family a leg up at Christmas can be a gift that has a ripple effect for the whole year. Making sure homeless or at-risk youth have access to hygiene products will positively affect their sense of security and self-esteem. Donating to disaster relief can bring families back together. These are activities that stay with the giver and receiver alike. The best gifts you can give this Christmas and all year round are the gifts of time, compassion, generosity, and kindness. Spread a little holiday magic to those around you and watch it grow.