Feeling the pressure of shopping for holiday gifts? Then you might want to think about the most memorable gifts you’ve ever received. Most probably, some of your favourites didn’t cost a lot of money—although it would have cost the giver a lot of thought to pull off such an awesome present.

Don’t be surprised if the act of giving gifts leaves you with a bit of an emotional high. That buzz is real, and there is scientific evidence that proves and connects altruism with happiness. Research suggests that by doing an act of generosity, you also get something in return: that feeling of happiness and good vibes. These are the benefits of giving that you can’t buy from any store.

Here are more reasons, in the form of mental health benefits, which explain why it pays to continue giving and engage in holiday generosity:

  1. The positive feeling is mutual. You feel happy when you receive a gift—that’s normal and expected. But did you know that the giver also feels the same, or even higher, level of joy during the exchange? The great thing about it is that experiencing this “warm and fuzzy” emotion doesn’t need to involve material presents. You also experience it when you perform acts of selflessness, such as volunteering your time for a noble cause or helping out the marginalised.
  2. Generosity can lead to healing. Being a giver impacts your physical health and well-being. Studies show that various acts of being of service to others, such as volunteering, giving your moral support or simply providing assistance to people around you can boost longevity, lower stress and anxiety, and even boost healing for those suffering from a lifelong illness, such as HIV, hypertension and multiple sclerosis.
  3. Giving builds communities. Studies show that the state of the community you belong to, your relationship with neighbours, and the overall rhythm and feel of your neighbourhood has a significant effect on your quality of life. One of the ways to forge connections in your community is through giving. When you offer your time, expertise, attention and resources to others, you promote a sense of unity and trust in your social circles, which is the foundation of a healthy and wealthy community.
  4. Gratitude grows from acts of service and generosity. Another way to instill optimism and vibrant energy into your life and mental health is to have a sense of appreciation and gratefulness for the things you receive. That’s why exchanging gifts with another person strengthens the bond you share with one another.
  5. Paying it forward leads to lasting change. The true act of gifting involves giving something without expecting anything in return. When you give a gift to someone, make a contribution, do a random act of kindness, or perform a good deed, it results in a ripple effect, triggering similar actions that make the holidays—and the world—just a bit kinder, more blissful and more meaningful.

If you need some help or support for making positive changes in your life, search our national directory of counsellors and psychotherapists at http://www.australiacounselling.com.au