Better Health Through Giving

Every year, as we gear up for the holiday season, many of us try to take one day to make sure and find altruistic outlets to offset the commercialization that dominates most of the conversation from that first time we hear Maria Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” until a few days into the New Year.  That day is Giving Tuesday.  The goal is to spend that day giving back to the community. 

Of course, we all know that it is good to help others.  What you may not know is that it is good for you, both mentally and physically, to be generous with your time and resources.  This is important to remember as we enter the season of giving and receiving. 

Giving Tuesday

November 30th is “Giving Tuesday” this year.  After all of the commercialism of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, it is important to remember that giving isn’t just about packages that can be wrapped and put under a tree for loved ones.  Giving can be even more emotionally satisfying when it helps people we don’t know.  When we give to someone who is truly in need, we get the biggest reactions and make the biggest impacts.

Here at Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, we have three ways that you can help this holiday season.  We have over one hundred “angel babies” and children of domestic violence survivors who are looking to be adopted by “Holiday Helpers.”  Our “Holidays of Hope” program has provided assistance for over four-hundred families over the years. 

So many of us have been blessed to have escaped abusive situations and find ourselves in better places.  Almost all of us got some sort of help to make that happen, and if you are anything like me, you dreamt of the day that you could be the one giving the help.  All of us have also probably had multiple holidays ruined by being in abusive situations, and after having escaped abusive situations.  As parents, these women don’t want to let down their children.  They have made such a brave decision to make their children’s lives better, but they don’t want the immediate disappointment of a let-down holiday. 

You can donate at this link:  https://tinyurl.com/4au9pkp5

We always appreciate direct donations to Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence to give us the resources to continue to share stories.  There is a wonderful staff of volunteers at BTSADV who all work extremely hard at our passion.  This work is put in by people who don’t take a dime, but still put their blood, sweat, and tears into fighting for what is right.  Shining a spotlight on an issue that many people try to avoid is our mission.  It does take money. 

You can donate at this link:  https://breakthesilencedv.org/donate/

Finally, since you are very likely doing some holiday shopping, consider purchasing something from our on-line shop.  This has the advantage of being a present for someone that is personal and may be supporting their brave steps to move past the role of victim and into the mode of survivor.  It may just be a way for you to speak up about your journey.  Of course, money from the shop can also help us in our mission. 

You can check out our online shop at this link:  https://btsadv.creator-spring.com/

Giving Longer Can Lead to Living Longer

As we start to approach the two-year mark since the beginning of the pandemic, we can look back at a study that was conducted in the aftermath of another traumatic event…9/11.  In 2002, Stephanie Brown, a psychiatrist at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, conducted a study of older adults. 

Brown’s study produced incredible results.  Looking at data from over four-hundred couples, she noticed an astronomical difference in the types of subjects who passed away over the course of the five-year study.  134 subjects died in that time frame.  Brown’s research showed that subjects who reported not helping others were twice as likely to have been one of the unlucky 134 people.

Surprisingly, Brown didn’t see a reverse correlation.  Being on the receiving end of good deeds had no tangible impact on the subjects.  While this is just one small study, that is a remarkable finding.  You could be benefiting yourself more by providing assistance to someone in need than you are even benefiting them. 

This is a blog, and not a research paper, so we will not go into all of the science.  Heck, I probably wouldn’t understand all of the science.  Brown did, however, do her best to account for any variables that would have shown giving to be a correlation without causation when it came to giving. 

Brown stated, “These findings suggest that it isn’t what we get from relationships that makes contact with others so beneficial: It’s what we give” (Swanbrow, 2002).

Seeing Is Believing

When discussing the mental health benefits of giving, a separate study found that those who engaged in charitable giving saw the greatest improvement in happiness when they we able to clearly see the positive benefits of their efforts.  This may seem obvious, but it shows that empathy is a key part of giving.  A more sinical person would be happy with the act.  As we see from “Making a Difference Matters: Impact Unlocks the Emotional Benefits of Prosocial Spending Benefits of Prosocial Spending,” it is only in knowing that our actions are truly helping that we experience the dopamine jolt (Aknin et al., 2013)

The study also delves into why similar studies conducted in the past may have undervalued the positive emotional impact of giving.  Unlike “Making a Difference Matters,” many other studies didn’t account for the giver enjoying the outcome and result of the “prosocial” behavior. 

Anecdotally, we can see examples of this from larger charitable organizations.  Maybe they will send you a picture of a child in Africa, a tiger in the Savannah, or a whale that is being tracked in the ocean.  These larger charities are playing on this very real phenomenon.  People want to see the mark they are making in the world through their good deeds. 

This is one of the reasons that helping our “angel babies” or the children of domestic violence survivors can give you those altruistic feelings.  You are helping an individual child.  You know the difference a $50 donation can make to a mother who is trying to figure out how to have something to put under the tree after leaving an abuser.  Even without seeing the picture, you wouldn’t be reading this blog if you didn’t have some knowledge about the struggles of these mothers.  You can visualize the difference you are making, and also see it in real life.

As a smaller organization, even giving directly to BTSADV will give you that regular blast of serotonin throughout the year.  When you follow our social media pages, you will see stories from survivors; blogs related to putting a spotlight on domestic violence issues; and you will see real people who are being helped by the organization.  Whenever we do something throughout the year, you will know that your donation played an important part in making that possible. 

Happy Holidays

Whatever you celebrate between now and the end of the year, it is great to experience both ends of the spectrum.  Yes, giving can have many benefits on your physical and mental health, but we also know that receiving gifts can make us feel loved. 

Here at Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence we are well aware that many of you have been through unimaginable struggles to get where you are today.  The holiday season provides the opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments, hard work, and great moments along the way of your journey as a survivor.  Take that time for yourself.  Happy Holidays.

References

Aknin, A., Dunn, E., Whillans, A., Grant, A., & Norton, W. (2013, April). Making a difference matters: Impact … – repository.upenn.edu. UPenn.edu. Retrieved from https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1346&context=mgmt_papers.

Swanbrow, D. (2002, November 12). People who give, Live Longer: U-M Study shows. EurekAlert! Retrieved from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/887795.