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The Health Benefits of Holiday Giving

‘Tis the season… the season of gift giving, that is. These upcoming weeks are filled with friends, family and complete strangers buying, making and sharing gifts with each other. But why is our culture so obsessed with giving and receiving gifts this time of year?

Turns out, giving gifts is not only fun, but it’s good for you too! That’s right, giving benefits more than your soul; it’s good for your body. Still unsure? Check out these health benefits holiday giving can give you.

Giving makes you happier.
Recent studies have suggested that giving not only makes the receiver happy, but it makes the giver happy too. It activates the region in our brains associated with pleasure, connection and trust. When we give gifts to other people, these areas in our brains secrete hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, which biologically elevate our mood and turn that frown upside down.

Giving to others also stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, or the reward center in our brains. This pathway releases endorphins and creates what is known as a “helper’s high.” So this holiday season, get addicted to gifting, feel the rush and boost your mood by giving to others.

Giving reduces your stress.
Because giving releases endorphins in our brains and makes us happier, it also helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone often leads to stress-related disorders, such as high blood pressure and anxiety. But when you give gifts, your stress literally melts away.

This winter, try relaxing a bit by giving a worthwhile gift to those you love the most. Sounds like quite the upside to a season that can involve a lot of stressful moments!

Giving strengthens your heart.
Not only does giving make you happier and reduce stress levels, but it can also improve your heart health through decreasing the risk for heart disease and heart attacks. Studies have suggested that giving back through donations and volunteering has even been linked to lower levels of cholesterol and inflammation of the heart.

Gift-giving also helps to lower high blood pressure, which can cause heart strain. So this giving season, why not take care of yourself by giving to others?

Giving helps you live longer.
Giving helps to promote social connections between givers and receivers. It also incorporates a greater sense of trust and intimacy with those around you. These connections, coupled with the physical health benefits of your brain and heart, helps you to literally live longer than those who choose not to give back.

Some studies have even found that elderly people who give help to friends, relatives, neighbors and strangers are more likely to live past the age of 60 than their counterparts who do not. Whether you’re older in years or not, one thing is certain: if you want to live longer later, give more now.

This holiday season, give yourself a treat by giving to others. Not only will you improve your heart and brain health, but the relationships you build will truly bring you joy for a long lifetime.

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