It can be fun exchanging presents with friends and family during the holidays, but the gift of kindness is something we should consider giving all year round. It not only helps spread positivity and goodwill, but it can also have a positive effect on our own well-being. Whether it is regularly volunteering, or making an effort to do kind things for others, research is telling us that it may be good for us to give.

Volunteering is one way to give back and possibly get some health benefits. There are studies that show that performing a kind act releases oxytocin—a chemical in the brain that makes you feel bonded to people when released. Oxytocin also lowers your blood pressure temporarily, which can improve your heart health.

Giving can also be beneficial for your brain. An act of charity can stimulate the reward centers in your brain and create what is known as “a helper’s high” caused by endorphins being released in the body. Volunteering is also a good way to maintain connections with your community and build bridges with others.

No matter how little we may have, we always have something to give. Something as simple as a smile or sincere compliment can change a person’s day or help someone through a difficult time. This is enough reason for us to be kind and take the opportunity to give when we can. Big or small, never underestimate the effect a kind gesture can have on others as well as yourself.

Ways to give back this holiday season:

  • Donate a box of toys to a children’s hospital
  • Volunteer time at a soup kitchen
  • Pay for the groceries of the person behind you in line
  • Donate cans of food to a food bank
  • Bake holiday cookies and share them with your neighbor
  • Bring treats to work to share with coworkers
  • Donate to a charity

Sources: Harvard Medical School, Psychology Today, Cleveland Clinic, WebMD. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.