This is a guest post by Alexis Bonari. Alexis is currently a resident blogger at College Scholarships, where recently she’s been researching scholarships for paralegal students as well as coke scholarships. Whenever this WAHM gets some free time she enjoys doing yoga, cooking with the freshest organic in-season fare, and practicing the art of coupon clipping.
The feel-good sensation after you give someone on the street a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly morning actually has a name: the “helper’s high.”
According to The New York Sun, psychologists say that charitable actions induce endorphin activity in the brain—these are the body’s natural “happy hormones” that are released when we exercise or eat chocolate.
Moreover, charitable actions can lower stress hormones. For example, in a 1998 experiment at Duke University, participants showed lower levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine—stress hormones—after giving charitable massages to babies without expectation of a reword or even a “thank you.”
Such an experiment shows that giving isn’t just for the holidays and that charity doesn’t have to be just about sending a hefty check. Besides, there’s no therapy like knowing when your head hits the pillow at night that you made someone smile.
The following are ways to give without reservation or remorse, for the betterment of your community and yourself:
Give What You Don’t Need
While you’re spring cleaning, make an effort to go through your closet, your kids’ old toy box, and your spare electronics bin and think about what you really need. Most of us can afford to let go of half of our supply of any of these things and still be happy—happier, even.
Go to your closet with a laundry basket or large trash bag. Fill it with all clothing and shoes you haven’t worn in the last 6 months. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months, you’re not going to wear it often enough in the next 6 months to justify the space it takes up in your closet. Bag it. Do the same thing to your electronics, DVD or VHS collection, and your kids’ room. If they’ve outgrown certain toys or clothes, put them in a bag to give away.
Give old clothes to your local homeless shelter or thrift store for less fortunate families. Give old towels, rags, and blankets to your local animal shelter. They’re always looking for bedding for the homeless animals as well as pet items and cleaning supplies.
You can find numerous volunteer positions by visiting www.VolunteerMatch.org and typing in your zip code. Most communities have at least the two following, solid options:
1Volunteer at your local senior’s home. Many residents are just happy to have someone engage them in conversation. You’ll meet war veterans, seasoned nurses, and people from all walks of life with stories that shouldn’t be forgotten.
2Volunteer at the pet shelter. Most shelters have volunteer positions just for playing with cats or walking dogs. Don’t forget about virtual volunteerism. Many animal rescue organizations have websites to maintain, newsletters to write and send, and listings for homeless pets to post on various websites including Craigslist and Petfinder.
This is where most people hesitate, and no wonder—many of us short on cash. Instead of begrudgingly donating a large lump sum at the end of the year, keep spare change that you find in your wallet, your car, and on the dresser in a jar. When it’s full, take it to a local organization that needs help.
Whatever path you choose remember that when you give others, you give yourself and it doesn’t matter if it’s money, a hug or just a smile.