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The Gift of Giving

Giving is good for the heart and soul.

I am the proverbial “Polly Anna.”  My glass is always half full.  I see the silver lining in every cloud.  However, a few years ago, I encountered a season of very gloomy, gray clouds. We all go through seasons of sorrow, but the stressors of life were weighing more heavily than ever.  I began to find it very difficult to keep my chin up.  In fact, I was feeling depressed.

I have always subscribed to the belief that through prayer, exercise, counseling and healthy living that one can overcome any obstacle.  However, the weight of sorrow I was feeling was not responding to a holistic approach to physical and mental wellness.  I found it increasingly difficult to put on a happy face, and put one foot in front of the other. Something was missing.  Then life gave me a gift in the form of a conversation with a friend.

Over coffee, my friend Rod was talking about the joy he experiences in volunteering. A sound byte from the conversation resonated in my soul. “The best way to feel good is to make other people feel good.”  Rod claimed that finding ways to serve others, volunteering and doing good deeds is the best way to increase joy in your life.   I took his words to heart. 

I began to look for more ways to serve and give.  I volunteered at more events.  I secretly placed flowers on stranger’s doorsteps.   I responded to the charity mailers. I left small gifts for people to find.  I covertly mowed my neighbor’s lawn.  I visited with elderly people.  I took dinner to a friend.  The giving feeling was addictive.  I began performing random acts of kindness at every opportunity I could find.  My blue feelings rapidly faded.  I suddenly felt happy again, even elated. 

Being the analytical type, I had to know: Was I simply caught up in the cliché: It is better to give than receive? Or, was there scientific evidence that something biological was happening to me?  So, I did what every good researcher does, I Googled it and found numerous research studies.  The feel good feeling I was feeling from giving was actually related to a release of endorphins – the feel good hormones – in my body.

When it comes to giving, I had always been told that you shouldn’t expect anything in return. That couldn’t be further from the truth.  By giving, I was not only creating joy in my life and the lives of others, I was actually improving my health and well-being. The act of giving was having a positive chemical reaction within the cells of my body; similar to the benefits of exercise.

Yet this key health discovery hasn’t made it fully into mainstream thinking.  Like exercise, it may take some time for everyone to adopt “the act of giving” as integral part of a holistic approach to health and wellness.  It all starts with awareness.  To that end, as a television producer, I feel a new calling to use my gifts and talents to produce a new kind of reality show.  

The Kindness Effect will be a 30-minute, hidden camera, reality program with a unique twist.  Similar in format to programs like Candid Camera; Betty White’s Off Their Rockers; and Punk’d with one major difference.  Instead of using the programming budget to play practical jokes on people, The Kindness Effect will “prank” people “for good” and change lives along the way.  Learn more here.

The gift of giving is not only something you give others, but something you give yourself.  It is no cliché. It is actually good for your health.  My journey in finding this truth was a difficult but extremely rewarding and enlightening breakthrough in my own life.  I hope you, too, find healing through giving and that the act of giving is a gift you give yourself this holiday season.