Life Lessons: Holiday giving

Author: , Anchor / Reporter, NWerteen@wfmz.com
Published: Dec 16 2013 05:00:00 AM EST
Life Lesson Holiday giving

You know it's the season of giving but did you know giving is good for you?

Researchers say when we give, we feel better, are happier and even healthier.

Giving is something Lehigh University Police Chief Edward Shupp thinks about all year long. He heads up the "Shop With a Lehigh Cop" program, which provides gifts and holiday meals for 12 needy families.

The department raises money during the year with various fund raisers.

The cops then take the families shopping at Walmart.

Shupp started the program 11 years ago and says it's a valuable program for the families and the police department.

"It's a time where there's time to give instead of receive and especially being police officers in the public eye and this is something that we're giving back. We are being seen in a positive light and this is something that really makes your holiday more beneficial for everybody," explains Shupp.

It turns out there could be a biological reason for those good feelings.

Researchers have found that giving stimulates a part of the brain associated with pleasure. Studies show giving cements social connections and can even improve your health.

Associate Professor Michael Gill teaches classes in morality in the psychology Department at Lehigh University and he says in a sense we are hardwired to give because we feel empathy for others.

"A lot of us argue that because we operate in these ways, there's something sort of intrinsic to our nature that is connected to morality. The idea that giving to others is a deep part of our nature," says Gill.

Gill adds that giving can be contagious. When we see others give, we want to give too.

"And when we see them do it, it triggers an emotional reaction in us that psychologists call 'elevation.' You could describe it as moral inspiration."

So whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, you'll get positive feelings in return.

"For a lot of us, we can experience that when we see a child receive a gift, even if the child is a perfect stranger. Seeing their smile makes us feel really happy too," says Gill.

The research also say it doesn't matter if you're giving or receiving-- the act of giving makes us all feel grateful for what we have.