Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Giving is good for you!

About five years ago, on a winter night, I was walking through the West Village on a way to a friend's holiday party. It was a really, really cold night, and in my usual winter posture I was walking hunched forward, shoulders scrunched up, with my head ducked down to protect myself from the frigid wind. My downward glance ended up being of great benefit to me as I stumbled upon a small fold of five $20 bills! $100! I couldn't believe it. I had found a buck before on the street, but 100? I looked around to see if it belonged to someone nearby but the street was completely desolate. Rejoicing at my good fortune, I pocketed the money and continued my walk to the party. Rather quickly, my burst of joy began to fade and something unpleasant was growing inside of me.

How could it be that I had the luck to find this money? Why couldn't someone more needy have found it?

I was not rich at the time, but I was certainly comfortable, and always had the safety net of my upper middle class parents to fall back on. It just didn't seem right to me that I, who already been so lucky in life, had this good fortune as well. It felt like too much. I instantly remembered that when I had gotten off the subway there had been a homeless person asking for change. I knew immediately what I wanted to do. I turned around and walked back.

I ended up giving the homeless man $60 and keeping $40 for myself. I am not a total martyr!

It was one of those moments that felt totally right. The burst of joy I got was so much bigger and brighter than the inital moment of happiness of finding the money in the first place.

It feels great to give. And now, new evidence is indicating that giving may be good for your health as well.

Recently, Tara Parker Pope wrote in her Well Blog about  a woman, Cami Walker, who was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. I happen to know a little bit more about this story having read another article about Cami. Basically Cami was really struggling. Her MS had left her practically unable to walk and she spiralled into a deep depression. Eventually a counselor gave her a "prescription",  it was time to stop thinking about herself, and instead she was instructed to give one thing a day, for 29 days. Cami, reluctantly gave it a shot. She ended up loving giving so much, that she did 3 or 4 more rounds of the 29 days of giving. Miraculously her symptoms started to lessen, her pain decreased and she was able to walk again.

This may seem like a micacle, but Tara Parker Pope's article goes on to site several scientific studies that have shown that when people focus on helping others, they experience physical and emotional healing. 

We are certainly in the middle of our season of giving, so if you weren't already inspired to give, do it for your health!

The other day a friend asked me for a suggestion for a healthy/cooking related gift idea, and it seemed a worthwhile topic for a blog post.

Unfortunately these suggestion come a little late for the Hanukkah readers. Though, if you are like me, gifts don't always fall on the actual day they are supposed to be received.  And for the rest of you last minute X-mas buyers, many of these are from companies that can guarantee you a Christmas delivery.

So here goes:

Give the gift of relaxation. Who doesn't want that?
Am I Dreaming Stress Kit

People love soup. I got so many great comments from the soup I posted a few weeks ago. Soups are easy to make, nutritious, and so soothing during these cold months. This is a great book for a soup lover.

Love Soup Cookbook, Anna Thomas

Give this gift a turbo boost by pairing it with a handheld blender!


How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman also makes a great cookbook gift.

A health related magazine subscription is always a nice option.

Men's Health & Women's Health are also safe bets.

My go-to gift this year is the "Backpack Tumblr" from Thermos. This thermos is unlike any other. It keeps beverages super hot (like, be careful hot), has a cool flip-top lid for easy sipping access, yet when it's closed it's locked so tight that you can throw it in your bag upside down (hence the name) and it won't spill. Why is this healthy? Well now your loved one can pack up a delicious green tea to go! Or, in my case, it allows me to have my morning coffee at work, but with my fair trade coffee and organic milk. Yes, I'm a milk snob.

Then there is the gift that keeps on giving, give a loan through Kiva or make a donation to a charity in someone's name.

This is one of my favorite new discoveries, buy your loved one an assortment of yumminess from Foodzie. This site has an amazing variety of special foods and they are all exclusively sourced from small local farms and stores.

Finally, you could buy your loved one a gift certificate for a session with a Wellness Counselor.

Happy Giving!

Got some other ideas for healthy gift-giving? Post 'em!

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