Can a Month of Giving Change Your Life?

Can a Month of Giving Change Your LifeWe must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily difference we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.

– Marion Wright Edelman

The effect of giving on mental and physical health seems to be in the air these days.  A new book by Cami Walker — 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life — was recently brought to my attention.  Diagnosed with a progressive illness, holistic healer gave the author a prescription for feeling better:  giving a gift to someone every day for 29 days.  Walker’s book is a description of how that benefited not only those who received, but how she — the giver — also reaped rewards.

Giving is a practice that researchers have studied.  The benefit seems to be about two things:  giving meaning and a biological boost that may be hardwired. Hands-on volunteering — that is, work that involves direct contact with people — seems to hold the most benefit (Psychology Today, 1988).  It is not clear exactly why this works, but the effect is unmistakable:  those with chronic pain feel better, are more able to cope, and possess improved moods.

{C}29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life on CreakyJoints.org | Your Arthritis HomepageThis is what the professionals like to call a synergistic effect — it is less cause and effect, and more a subtle weaving together of all the influences into a more healthful and positive state of being.

It doesn’t have to be formal volunteer work.

On her new Web site, 29days.org, Walker invites comments and gives ideas about how to give.  She suggests that giving is a way to strengthen your health, along with exercise and medication.  It may be as simple as a note or a phone call.  In a recent article in Yoga Magazine, one of the authors describes her practice of baking a cake for someone every Saturday.  It may be adding a volunteer hour to your week, and doing a less structured act on other days.

If you decide to take on this opportunity, it seems that what is most beneficial is the daily practice that invites you to turn outward to someone else.  That is what reminds us that no matter what the state of our health, we have something to offer, and that there are those who need us.  The emphasis on thinking of others may relieve stress, and it certainly opens our hearts.

The web of connection and relationships made of kindness and openheartedness is the healing balm that spreads in every direction, even in ways we cannot see or know.

It is not clear exactly why this works, but the effect is unmistakable:  those with chronic pain feel better, are more able to cope, and possess improved moods.

We are gearing up for those New Year resolutions.  Do you think you are ready to try the 29 days challenge?  If you do, let me know how it works for you, what you choose to do, and how you feel.

Have a blessed and lively holiday season, and may your New Year be healthy and full of opportunities to give and grow.

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