Dr. Patricia Farrell on Medika Life

Kindness and Charity Benefit Us More Than We Know

The secret is out and it's that we are the gainers, too, when we give and promote kindness to others.

Kindness and special consideration for others who may be in need physically or mentally shouldn’t be limited to certain times of the year. Goodness is something all of us should be exhibiting all year round, and we all benefit from it.

Do we need research to tell us that we will receive something wonderful in return for thinking of others in their time of need? If that’s what anyone needs to help them rethink their behavior, OK, bring it on.

Literature and films all laud the heartwarming aspects of charity and caring for our brothers and sisters worldwide, regardless of religious beliefs. We watch a classic like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and we feel renewed in our beliefs that things can turn around. How many saw Mary Bailey as the true hero here and failed to give her the due she deserved? Well, a WAPO columnist did.

Many of us will watch the several iterations of the film “A Christmas Carol” and see what pushes Scrouge to repent his miserly actions and channel the true spirit of Christmas. But first, Scrouge has to be scared witless by the three ghosts of Christmas. Who knew it had ghosts, or are they simply spirits? I’ll leave that to the literature scholars.

The season is a time of sharing, goodwill, and charity. Whether it’s a religious holiday (or holy day) isn’t the issue here. Human dignity and fair treatment of others are the emphases.

Those who celebrate Kwanzaa have returned to the true essence of the season where the cost of a gift isn’t the issue (really, a Lexus?), and it should be replaced with a gift made for the receiver.

I’ve worked in mental health centers where patients, who had been in psychiatric hospitals for decades, didn’t know what an appropriate Christmas gift might be. One man gave someone a pound of raw bacon, and he was a bit unnerved that he didn’t receive a hearty thanks for it. Another patient gave a single Bic pen wrapped in Christmas paper to a worker. The joy exhibited was moving.

The writer O’Henry enriched our reading and the spirit of love in difficult times when he wrote “The Gift of the Magi.” If you haven’t read it, you have a link here. Of course, in my readings, someone asked why one of the kings brought the gift of myrrh, an oil that is used for the solemn procedures before burial. Again, the scholars can debate.

Enter the Research

Research hasn’t failed us in providing proof that giving is as good to the recipient as the giver and perhaps more so. One form of charity doesn’t have the effect we would expect and it’s anxiety.

The so-called checkout charity solicitations often bring anxiety, and their “results caution managers that checkout charity solicitations may have unintended consequences on customers that result in negative encounter outcomes, particularly in service environments in which the solicitation is technology-mediated.” I’m reminded of the supermarkets asking if I wanted to “round up” on my order for charity. Pharmacy chains do this as well.

Guess what one incredible benefit of giving can be. All of you might be interested in a study that indicated that charitable giving might promote longer life. That’s like paying it forward big time.

This study indicates that “older people who are helpful to others reduce their risk of dying by nearly 60 percent compared to peers who provide neither practical help nor emotional support to relatives, neighbors or friends.” Maybe we should have plaques with “Give Unto Others and Prolong Your Life.”

Altruism does affect us by lowering our stress hormone levels and thereby increasing our immune system’s ability to protect us. Good? Better than good, and cancer may be tamed through charitable works. Volunteering is a wonderful way to help others, so money is not the issue.

All of us need a sense of worth and belonging to our culture. Research out of an Alzheimer’s center indicated that volunteering and giving of ourselves can contribute to possibly staving off neurological illness, heart disease, and stroke. Again, the return to the giver is in good health indicators.

When we feel our lives and activities have been limited, there is time for charitable works either via the internet or some other activity. Think about it.

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Pat Farrell PhDhttps://medium.com/@drpatfarrell
I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

DR PATRICIA FARRELL

Medika Editor: Mental Health

I'm a licensed psychologist in NJ/FL and have been in the field for over 30 years serving in most areas of mental health, psychiatry research, consulting, teaching (post-grad), private practice, consultant to WebMD and writing self-help books. Currently, I am concentrating on writing articles and books.

Patricia also acts in an editorial capacity for Medika's mental health articles, providing invaluable input on a wide range of mental health issues.

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