As we start a new year, we continue living in a pandemic; one that has left many of us working from home, losing a job, or unfortunately lamenting a loved one’s loss. While staying at home is important, maintaining social relationships helps nurture our emotional health and social well-being.
One way we can nurture our health and well-being during these prolonged times of quarantine can be described in one word: giving.
In Ludmila Nunes’s cover story “Making Nice,” she highlights research on how giving and serving other individuals, can improve the giver’s own well-being.  Tristen Inagaki, an Assistant Professor at San Diego State University and UCLA alumnus (B.A., 2005; Ph.D., 2014) highlighted that in “giving to others, you might help them, but you might also help yourself.” Inagaki’s research suggests that prosocial behaviors — which include taking care of others — can boost our health and well-being. In fact, the neurochemical mechanisms associated with giving to others increase our well-being and trigger feelings of satisfaction and warmth.
Even small acts of kindness can make a difference in peoples’ lives including actions on behalf of larger social causes, like donating to efforts to fight homelessness, hunger, and poverty. Additionally, another small act of kindness is giving advice. Research profiled in Nunes’s story found that students who gave advice to other students were more motivated to achieve their goals than those who only received advice. However, listening is also known to be an important form of giving and advice may be resented so doing this skillfully is critical.
In what ways can we give?
We may be thinking research proves that giving is fulfilling for both the giver and the receiver, but what ways can you give during this pandemic? Here are a few possibilities to consider:
- Listen to others and find out how they are doing, give suggestions sparingly and advice only when someone asks for it.
- Thank medical professionals, sanitation workers, teachers, grocery workers, among other essential workers when you interact with them or by donating for them to get meals.
- Donate food or money to local organizations with pressing needs.
- Learn about local food banks, homelessness initiatives and other causes until you can be more active again but make yourself a promise (or even a plan) that you will when it is safe.
One final important tip: For individuals who feel isolated during these times, showing gratitude to others for their efforts to keep the world moving right now goes a long way. Not only does giving encourage us to focus less on ourselves and problems, but it also keeps us socially connected and is good for our health.
- Nunes, Ludmilla. “Making Nice: How Giving and Gratitude Can Rebuild Connections and Break Down Barriers.” Association for Psychological Science. (2020). https://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/making-nice