Are you looking forward to the holidays or dreading them this year? If you find yourself feeling more stressed between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, you aren’t alone. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that 38% of people experience increased stress levels during the holiday season, which may lead to abandoning healthy eating, drinking and exercise habits. Shorter days, concerns about money, an overpacked social calendar, the recent loss of a loved one, and strained relationships with family members can also contribute to mental as well as physical health issues.

While that sounds like bad news, the good news is that acts of altruism or kindness to others can actually improve mental and physical health. According to the APA, performing acts of altruism can:

Release endorphins. The act of doing a good deed releases endorphins in your body, making you feel good naturally. Some refer to this as “helper’s high” because of the rush you may feel after taking positive action.

Trigger thankfulness. The APA notes that helping someone less fortunate, or supporting someone going through a difficult time, may make us feel more thankful for what we have.

Make us forget our own problems – at least temporarily. When we’re busy thinking of others, we’re less likely to focus on ourselves and our problems. The APA cites study findings indicating that when people with serious medical conditions, such as cancer, counsel other patients with similar illnesses, they often experience less depression or distress.

Improve physical health. Doing good can make you feel better physically as well as mentally. In fact, The Cleveland Clinic says volunteering can lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, provide a greater sense of happiness and satisfaction, lower stress levels, and lead to less depression.

Provide a feeling of satisfaction. Who doesn’t feel good after helping someone else?

While the APA says altruism doesn’t affect everyone the same way, it may be just enough to nudge us out of a holiday funk. So this month, why not give it a try with some small acts of kindness? Here is a month’s worth of ways to give back – with and without opening your wallet:

  • Send a handwritten letter to someone who could use a boost.
  • Donate old clothes.
  • Donate food or money to a local food bank.
  • Leave a large tip for a helpful server at your favorite restaurant.
  • Donate food and blankets to your local animal shelter.
  • Genuinely compliment someone.
  • Say something nice about one of your coworkers or friends.
  • Send a care package to someone in the military stationed overseas.
  • Pay for someone else’s drive-thru order.
  • Let someone go ahead of you in line.
  • For every gift you receive, donate something to charity.
  • Appreciate a neighbor’s beautiful holiday light display by leaving a handwritten note.
  • Put a treat in the mailbox for your mail carrier.
  • Shop small and local.
  • Donate blood or plasma.
  • Take a homemade meal to a sick or elderly friend or family member.
  • Contact a friend you’ve lost touch with.
  • Write a positive review of a local business.
  • When shopping, hang up the clothes you try on instead of leaving them for an employee to put away.
  • Start a conversation with a stranger.
  • Offer to drive a friend or neighbor to the airport.
  • Pick up trash in your neighborhood.
  • Let cars merge in front of you.
  • Give up your seat to someone who looks tired.
  • Hold the door for someone.
  • Offer to watch a neighbor’s pet or babysit for free.
  • Leave unused coupons next to corresponding products in the grocery store.
  • Run an errand for a friend or family member who is busy.
  • Put your phone away while in the company of others.
  • Drop treats off at the nurse’s station at your local hospital with a note wishing them a happy new year.
  • Practice self-kindness and spend an hour doing something you love.

Ready to give this “Pay it Forward” experiment a try? We’ve created a handy calendar you can hang on your refrigerator or above your desk as a reminder.

We’d love to hear how showing kindness, volunteering, and putting your good vibes out into the world make you feel this holiday season. Share your thoughts and stories with us at

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