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Health And Wellness Spotlight: Being A Giving Heart Is Good For The Heart

Photo By Hillary Ehlen

I love holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Independence Day. But I was born in February, so all of my childhood birthday cakes were heart-shaped and lush with pink frosting and red roses. Valentine’s Day has always had a special place in my heart. I find it interesting that the heart is where we experience the consciousness of our feelings. This time of year has taken a new meaning and feeling for me as Giving Hearts Day season. Flowers and chocolate are nice, but donate to a worthy cause and I’m smitten. My son Grant was born the first year of Giving Hearts Day, and he has grown up with this tradition. He attended that very first GHD a sleepy infant in his car seat, and last year graced the cover of this magazine at age 11. He was up at 6 a.m. to be interviewed on TV and served as an unofficial GHD ambassador for his school. He felt empowered by giving back.

It turns out that giving is very, very good in many ways. Here are some ways you can give that are also good for your own health.

  1. Give gifts.

The law of reciprocity works in business as well as love. The little mint or chocolate truffle gifted with the restaurant bill helps to entice a better tip. The free sample creates more sales, like free bacon for life at ButcherBox.com. The free trial of Netflix gets you hooked. Romantic flowers may lead to extra hugs and kisses.

2. Give hugs.

A real 20-second heart-to-heart hug can lower your blood pressure and heart rate, improve your immunity, decrease stress and boost your self- confidence. It is recommended that you need to give and get at least four per day.

3. Give kisses.

Kissing triggers your brain to release a hormonal cocktail that leaves you feeling good by igniting the pleasure centers of the brain. These chemicals include oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, which can make you feel euphoric and encourage feelings of affection and bonding. It also lowers your cortisol (stress hormone) levels.

Oxytocin is linked to pair bonding, and when released during a kiss, causes feelings of affection and attachment. Kissing your significant other for at least 6 seconds twice a day can improve relationship satisfaction and increase your odds for the long run.

4. Give laughter.

Many studies report that humor can be healing. Laughter releases all kinds of feel-good hormones.

5. Give blood.

Benefits are not just the juice box, snack and sticker from the bloodmobile. Giving blood helps others and it may help you. Health benefits of donating blood include reduced risk of cancer and hemochromatosis. It helps in reducing the risk of damage to liver and pancreas. Donating blood may help in improving cardiovascular health and reducing obesity, too.

6. Give time.

Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” All around us, people are helping… bringing brownies to grieving families and hotdish to those recovering from surgery. Organizations like FirstLink are great to help you find volunteer opportunities.

Science says people who gave social support to others had lower blood pressure than people who didn’t. Supportive interaction with others also helped people recover from coronary-related events. They also found that people who gave their time to help others through community and organizational involvement had greater self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels than those who didn’t.

7. Give talent.

Sing in the choir. Be the treasurer for your PTA. Dance with the wallflower.

Tell  jokes in the elevator. Serve with United Way’s Day of Caring or BackPack Drive. As for me, I get asked a lot of medical questions everywhere I go… At the store, in the restroom, at parties. I think of it as being of service and getting people headed in the right direction, and I feel really good that I have lots of information stuffed in my brain.

8. Give treasure.

Release possessions that don’t bring you joy and give them away or donate them. Your trash is someone else’s treasure. If it really is trash, find . some way to recycle it.

Giving treasure of the monetary kind reaps benefits far beyond your tax return. You can experience a “giver’s high” because charitable giving can feel pleasurable in the deepest parts of your physiology. You’ll feel happier and be healthier while you impact and safeguard your community.

Many say that in giving, they receive so much more. Science backs this in so many ways. Reach out and give in whatever way suits you. Pat Traynor of Dakota Medical Foundation says that we live in the most generous region in the world. So find a few charities to love this Giving Hearts Day, February 13, but keep giving from your heart all year long.

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