The Benefits of Giving Our Time, Talents & Treasures
As the leaves fall, the weather gets cooler, and nights get longer, it’s easy to retreat. During this transition, it’s tempting to turn inwards, drawing into ourselves. For some, the change of seasons brings joy, opportunities for self-care, and chances to give to others. For others, though, these darker days lead to depression and feelings of isolation. Whether we survive or thrive during this time of year is dependent on many factors.
As the holidays approach, there is a lot of pressure to feel a certain way. The Hallmark definitions of what “should be” often weigh us down with heavy, sometimes painful expectations. When we free ourselves from what we think ought to happen, we can instead focus on what we desire this season to look like. We can tap into our sources of joy and find ways to share the gifts we have been given with others.
Whether giving to others comes naturally this time of year, or you work at finding the energy to share your time and resources with others, the benefits to society and our well-being are numerous. Research shows the act of giving to others is beneficial to both physical and mental health. The Cleveland Clinic shares, “health benefits associated with giving can include lower blood pressure, increased self-esteem, less depression, lower stress levels, longer life, and greater happiness and satisfaction.”
Furthermore, Greater Good Berkely shares, “In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
A 2016 study from the University of the South suggests that performing "random acts of kindness" for others or for the world can boost your mood. The study found that helping others can boost your mood more so than if you had done something to help yourself.
With the benefits of giving being many, here are a few ideas to help you pick how you can give this year:
Give Your Time & Talents
"What does one person give to another? He gives of himself, of the most precious he has, he gives of his life..." - Erich Fromm
Not all giving needs to be centered on financial contributions. According to Psychology Today, “A longitudinal study by researchers at the University of Buffalo found that people who engaged in helping behaviors with their neighbors and friends, such as running errands, cooking meals, or providing child care, reduced their mortality rates compared with those who did not help.”
You can volunteer your time within your existing circle of social connections and make a large positive impact with the people who are closest to you. Make a list of helping tasks that come naturally to you. Maybe you love spending time at the grocery store, or you’re extra skilled at closet organization. Maybe you have an extra hour you could spend with a new mother, or an older gentleman in your neighborhood. Take the brave step and invite an acquaintance to coffee. Your acts of kindness will ripple out in ways you can’t yet see.
If you’re looking for more formal opportunities to serve, you can also volunteer in your community to support causes you believe in. You can search for local charities online to align your efforts with a cause you care about. Another example is to volunteer with LIFT-UP, a local food bank whose mission is to end hunger from Parachute to Aspen. You can volunteer to help distribute groceries to those in need. Are you an animal lover? Perhaps you would be interested in volunteering with the Friends of the Aspen Animal Shelter (FAAS) as a dog walker? The FAAS are dedicated to addressing pet overpopulation not just in Aspen, but also in the Ute and Navajo Indian reservations in the four corners region of Colorado, Utah, and Arizona, which, sadly, has one of the highest euthanasia rates in the country.
The Mayo Clinic shares, “By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. Reduced stress further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness.”
Points of Light, a national organization, helps volunteers match up their interests with opportunities in their communities. You can start your search here. Volunteer Match is another national website that connects volunteers with a variety of organizations and causes to contribute to.
Give Your Resources
A 2007 study published in the journal Science found donating to a charity activates neural activity in areas of the brain that are linked to reward processing – the same areas that are activated by pleasures like eating and sex. Giving of our resources biologically gives us joy!
If money is tight, look around your home and pick one or two items you can part with. Organizations like ARC and Goodwill are always accepting donations that help them further their mission. No-Buy groups on Facebook help families connect with one another and finding new homes for gently loved toys or barely used arts and craft supplies can bring joy to different children.
If you have extra financial resources to give, nonprofits and philanthropies are trying to reach their year-end fundraising goals and you can help. In Colorado, the state has a whole month dedicated to supporting nonprofits and their many causes. You can view the organizations in the Aspen area supported by Colorado Gives Day here. Local community foundations have grant programs you can contribute to, and some foundations can even help you set up endowments or scholarships in the name of someone you love. Passionate about mental health? The Hope Center and Aspen Strong Foundation rely on donations to provide much needed mental health services in the community to those who would otherwise not be able to afford care.
Regardless of income, those who give financially are likely to experience satisfaction in knowing their dollars are going to something bigger than themselves. Even five dollars is sure to make a positive impact.
Our culture programs us to live in scarcity. We’re told if we protect ourselves and live independently, we will thrive. However, many times the opposite is true. We need social connection, meaning and purpose, and to truly live full lives, we need one another. We have a choice in how we work on creating light in our lives, with the hope of sharing out abundantly. As Mary Anne Radmacher says, “As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way.”
We encourage you to create light for others this season. Give in ways you can and work at finding joy. And if you are looking for connection and purpose, the team at Aspen Ketamine Center can work with you to create a plan to untap your inner light. Set up a call today to explore what support could be helpful for you.