by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Dazzle this holiday season with less stress and more joy. How to multitask this? Be kind …
If you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, try doing something nice for someone else. Increasing your workload may not sound like a reasonable solution to your harried state. However, research indicates altruism can be an effective stress-reliever and mood-booster. Selfless acts actually reflect back to the self.
By offering time, energy, and support to others, we experience an elevated state of well-being. Helping others offers peace-of-mind about our own life, including health conditions. A study of multiple sclerosis patients who offered peer support showed stronger benefits for themselves than those they helped support! Benefits included improvement in daily functioning, increase in confidence, and decrease in depression.
Do-gooders also become known as such. Although they may not expect gratification for their good deeds, studies suggest their kindness does eventually catch up with them. Call it karma, but these folks often receive a return of favors in some form from somewhere. Perhaps everything truly does “even out” in the end. According to that theory, favors and kind actions are an investment for your future.
Helping a worthy cause also offers perspective. Perhaps you feel down about your finances, disappointed with your lot in life, or frustrated with your health (another cold already). There is always someone with less or worse. Dedicate yourself to helping that person or a related organization.
By sharing your talents and gifts, you realize all you have in this life. Hands with which to work. Food with which to cook. Shelter where you can safely sleep. Suddenly, that tenth cold of the season or being forced to bargain hunt mean nothing. We are rich in many ways. Spread the wealth.
Humans can be amazing beings. We may not have time to rake our own leaves, yet we can find a way to shovel an elderly person’s snow. You may wonder what to cook for dinner, and when you will find time to cook it. Yet, it gets done, and just as easily with a portion set aside for a sick friend.
Put all your efforts at the Center to work at creating a better community. Use the stamina from your cardio routine and strength from resistance training to improve the lives of others. You work hard at building a body able to go the extra mile. The extra mile defines altruism. Go beyond — for others.
Studies reveal the act of giving stimulates the area of the brain associated with positive feelings, which lifts your spirit. The “holiday spirit” is all about being elevated. Supposedly, the more you give, the better you feel. Try it. Start small: hold the door for someone, park your shopping cart, share a compliment. Challenge yourself to convert the season’s bah-humbugs. Make it hard for others to resist feeling good.
Sure, you are stressed, with too much to do. It’s December. Its reputation is to be the jolly season, when warmth and generosity are shared in abundance with smiles brightened by twinkling colored lights. Yet, beneath the surface brews stress, burnt cookies, and possibly a maxed-out credit card.
Do yourself and your health a favor. Make another’s day. The positive experience radiates back to relieve your stress and improve outlook. Kindness is a gift we all can enjoy and afford.
“Benefits of Altruism,” by Elizabeth Scott at www.about.com.
Kids helping kids: flickr.com/photos/26438236@N08/3063408598/
Volunteer painter: flickr.com/photos/usnavy/5782279080/