Giving Thanks and Giving Back

The holiday season is right around the corner. It is a joyous and cheerful time of year and there’s no better time to remind yourself of the importance of gratitude. EF Academy research has found that people who practice gratitude reported fewer ailments, including depression, and enjoyed more optimism, happiness and stronger relationships. Another way to give thanks is by giving back. Here are some ways to practice giving back and showing appreciation.
Get Involved
Becoming a mentor provides you the opportunity to share your skills and helps someone looking to learn grow professionally and personally. Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego County provides a remarkable way to help shape the future of young kids. Also, mentorship doesn’t need to be done only through special youth programs. Be a mentor daily by sharing your knowledge and experience in the workplace to assist colleagues advance in their careers.
Spend Time with Someone You Care About
Time is one of our most valuable resources and spending time with someone shows how much you care. When you take the time to play a game with a child, listen to an elder or have coffee with a friend who is going through a hard time, know that your small gesture goes a long way.
If you have more time than money, volunteering at your child’s school or after school activities is a great way to give back to the community. If you have a teenager, volunteering is a great opportunity for them to improve their social skills and awareness of local organizations and social issues. Oftentimes, high school students who volunteer may have an advantage over their peers when they head off to college as it’s considered on applications. In addition, many volunteer opportunities can translate to high school or college credits. It is important to discuss these opportunities with guidance counselors and administrators before starting volunteer work.
Help the Animal Shelter
Animal shelters are always looking for help to clean their facilities, feed and walk animals and help raise funds. If you would like to help SDCCU raise $10,000 for animals in need, please donate to Presents for Paws. Your donation will benefit local animal shelters and rescues in need, including the San Diego Humane Society (San Diego County), Animal Friends of the Valleys (Riverside County) and Home Free Animal Rescue and Sanctuary (Orange County).
Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude builds bonds with others and it helps strengthen interpersonal connections and relationships. People love to hear that they are appreciated and they feel closer to people who express gratitude. According to a U.S. Psychological study, gratitude can also lead to better relationships. The explanation for this may be connected to the increased production of oxytocin, sometimes called the “bonding hormone,” because it fosters calm and security in relationships. Practicing gratitude also puts the brakes on stress.
Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is what our bodies produce when we are under stress. If we produce too much of it, it can deplete the immune system and raise blood sugar levels. This study found that positive emotions like appreciation significantly lowered levels of cortisol.
Gratitude Takes Practice
Gratitude does not have to be difficult, you can start with an open mind and practice with small moments. The next time stress and frustration build, consider the silver lining of today’s stress. You may have been challenged to complete more tasks at work, but now you have learned better time management. A great coping tool is to redirect our awareness from the negative to the positive side. Here are some other questions to consider while practicing gratitude:
  • How could your perspective broaden?
  • Where is the positive, what did you learn and what can you feel grateful for?
  • Who can you thank today?
Expressing gratitude is one of the most effective tools we have for adding positivity and connection to our everyday lives. Don’t limit gratitude to just the holiday season. Practicing gratitude and giving back reaps benefits year round to help shed light on your most stressful days.
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