My friends Lisa and Natalie dress up like elves, complete in silly hats, and scurry around northern suburbs of Atlanta dropping gifts on the front steps of unsuspecting recipients. They call it #12daysofelvingchristmas. They find someone in the community who is having a rough go of the holiday season and “elf ” them – kinda like Ashton Kutcher in “Punk’d” but much nicer. A few years ago, Natalie suggested that I grab a partner and start “elfing” people in my area. So in 2016, Frances and I set out with journals, and candles and CD’s in pretty paper into different parts of the city. And do you know what happened? We had a blast. I mean, something magical happened. Maybe it was the Christmas Spirit or the Holy Spirit or simply good mojo. Whatever you wanna call it, we were high on it.
What is that? Why do we feel so good when we are giving? I went to the Google cave to find out. Turns out that I’m not the only person to ask this question. There have been all kinds of studies done on the subject. The research shows that giving, whether it’s cash to an organization, or volunteering, or a simple present under the tree… all of this has a profound impact on our lives.
It makes you feel good. (Duh!) Harvard did a study in 2008 and found that the general happiness levels of people went up when they spent money on other people, even when they THOUGHT that they would be happier spending it on themselves. There’s a reason for that too. Other studies that show that when we give, our brain loves it! It lights up with pleasure, connection and trust giving us a ‘warm glow’. (That explains why Frances and I felt so good!)
It’s good for your health. There’s research showing improved health in anyone who is a ‘giver’ even the sick and elderly. I won’t go into the details, you can go to the Google cave yourself for that. But let it suffice that giving reduces stress and fosters a sense of belonging. Remember our brains eat this stuff up!
We are hardwired for giving.
It evokes a sense of gratitude. When you’re sharing your resources you’re activating your gratitude button. There was another study that showed an attitude of gratitude in everyday life (not just at Thanksgiving) increased personal happiness resulting in optimism and better self care. Think about it, if you feel good, you’ll be more likely to take care of yourself, and then you feel good… it’s a circle of positivity. And that’s GOOOOOOD!
It’s contagious. There is research to back this up, however, my personal experience proves this out. I saw Natalie and Lisa giving and I wanted to be a part of it. When Frances and I are ‘elfing’ around town, others saw it and wanted to join in as well. Again this circle of positivity.
Just for Today
I’m going to get into the spirit of giving. Even if I don’t feeeeel like it. I’m going to do it anyway. and see what happens.
Help me to be more like you. You have given me everything I need, air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. You have designed a world that supports us entirely. Give me the power to give like you. Make me a giver.