Good deeds make both the giver and the receiver feel, well, good. Christmas is a season where showing kindness to those around us is encouraged. From our earliest years, we are taught that Santa’s watching us and making his final decisions on whether we’ve been naughty or nice. For many, the association of doing good things for others is linked with the idea of being rewarded, as children with stickers and gold stars and small pieces of candy, and as adults with a sense of well-being.
The science behind altruism – or the wish to perform good deeds – supports the idea of a “helper’s high” or the feeling we get after we’ve done something kind or helpful. In fact, there is a strong connection between this desire to help and to a longer, happier life. A large part of this is that doing good for others reduces stress and makes us feel better about ourselves.
I think we all could use a little less stress these days.
Doing a good deed doesn’t have to be complicated or take a long time. While volunteering at a soup kitchen is a wonderful way to contribute back to a community, most people struggle to find the time or figure out the logistics. Doing big things is important, and if you have the time and energy to organize this type of larger effort, the world will thank you in ways that can’t be measured.
Many people will think that only a big effort matters, but honestly, small efforts can bring the same benefits. Smile at your cashier at the store, pick up litter at your park, offer to shovel a walkway, play a board game with the family, deliver a plate of goodies to a neighbor, leave a note of appreciation for a loved one. Above all, seek out ways you can make someone’s day better.
One of my earliest jobs was as a cashier at a grocery store. Now, decades later, I remember that there were customers that I loved having in my line because they were friendly. There were also a few that I would literally hide from because they would ruin my day, they were so nasty and mean. Even on my worst days, I’m always kind to the cashier. I remember how much I appreciated being treated like a person and how much I appreciated it when I was treated with kindness.