Kind words make good echoes.
- Seen on a bumper sticker by Guideposts reader Buz Moxon
I like a good bargain and I really like finding just the right gifts for everyone on my list. But we’re only a few days into December, and already the barrage of ads and commercials touting sales and exhorting us to spend, spend, spend is making me develop if not quite a negative attitude, then a not entirely positive attitude toward the holidays. I don’t want to lose the joy of Christmas in a mad rush of materialism, so I hit upon a remedy that combines two of the most effective positive thinking techniques out there: gratitude and giving.
Expressing gratitude has benefits for mind, body and soul. Studies have shown that grateful people are healthier and happier, or as my fellow blogger Jon Gordon puts it, they’re too blessed to be stressed. (Click here for his five tips on how to feel more grateful every day.) There’s also scientific evidence that doing good makes you feel good. People who do volunteer work get a “helper’s high.” In a 2008 study, researchers at the University of British Columbia gave a group of students either $5 or $20 and gave them instructions on how to spend it. The results? People who spent the money on others—either by donating to charity or giving a gift—felt happier than those who spent it on themselves. Whether it was $20 or only $5, the amount didn’t matter. It was the act of giving that provided the happiness boost.
Which brings me back to that remedy I mentioned at the beginning. It’s pretty simple. Think of what you are grateful to have in your life—little things, big things, or both. Then, for each blessing on your list, make a donation to a charity that helps bring that blessing to someone else.
I’m grateful I can afford to put good food on the table, so I’m donating to Feeding America, which feeds 37 million people across the country through its network of food banks. I’m grateful to be in good health and to have doctors and dentists help keep me that way, so I’m giving to Doctors Without Borders and Partners in Health, which provide health care to people in the poorest parts of the world. Now that the temperature in New York City has dipped into the thirties, I’m glad I have a warm winter coat; the extras I have in my closet are getting cleaned this weekend and I’ll drop them off with the New York Cares coat drive next week. Because I’m grateful for all the inspiring stories I come across every day—both real-life and fiction—I’m giving to the New York Public Library and I’m looking for an organization where I can donate part of my book collection. Of course, I can’t imagine my life without my dog, Winky. I’m donating to Bideawee, the shelter where I adopted her, and I’m checking out several other animal rescue groups as well.
That’s just a start. This is one list I’m happy goes on and on! What’s on your list of blessings? And how do you plan to share them?
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Amy Wong is the executive editor of Guideposts and was a founding editor of Positive Thinking. She lives in New York City with her adopted dog, Winky, a natural-born positive thinker who believes that everyone has a treat for her and every day is the best day of her life. Amy hopes to be that optimistic someday (she’s working on it!).