The Gift of Giving.

I am a crafter.  I craft any and all things because it is a great way for me to relieve stress, plus I am intuitively good at it.  I usually give gifts and crafts all year long, but this past holiday season, I hand sewed 32 scarves from fabric that I handpicked myself (If I could have made the fabric myself, believe me, I would have).  Granted, I spent about $300 on all of the supplies needed, which was a grip! But if you really think about it, I spent less than $10 per person, which is a preeeeeetty good.

Hand Crafted for a Coworker

Hand crafted for my old Boss!

As I finished the last scarf, I began to think to myself, “Why am I doing this?” Welp! The answer is simple—I love the gift of giving.  Not only does it give me satisfaction to know that I am giving, but it makes it even MORE special that the item is personalized and specific for that individual.  It truly does put me in great spirit.

So, what about you? How do you feel when you give the gift of giving?  The Greater Good Science Center, based at the University of California at Berkeley, shares with us some ways that giving is good for you and your community:

  • Giving makes us feel happy. Research shows that when someone gives something that is nice for someone else, it activates parts of the brain that is associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Endorphins are also released in the brain that creates an overall positive feeling.
  • Giving is good for our health. Research has connected different forms of giving to having better health.  Researchers think this is due to the act of giving, which decreases stress.
  • Giving promotes cooperation and social connection. Several studies suggest that people who give are more likely to be rewarded by others and sometimes by the person you gave to.  This helps create trust and a higher sense of interdependence.
  • Giving evokes gratitude. ‘Counting your blessings’ can illicit feelings of gratitude, which research shows, is essential to health, happiness, and social connections.
  • Giving is contagious. Giving inspires others to want to give. A study showed that when one person gives, it inspires observers to want to give later and to different people.

So, considering all of the health benefits and how easy it is to give—big or small—try to give often!


5 ways to be kind to yourself

If you’ve been surfing around the internet lately, you might have come across the buzzword gratitude and it triggered some mental images of people doing yoga or holding hands, etc. I’m a huge fan of the idea of being thankful and accepting and giving appreciation. However, as a current UNC graduate student, I’ve seen (and experienced) that it’s often easier to express gratitude to others than to be kind to our own selves….

So, last semester, I started adding some ‘be kind to yourself’ practices to my everyday school-work routine, and I was not only feeling much less anxious day-to-day, but I was actually 100% enjoying school. I want to share some of my tips with you so that you can all be kind to yourselves and THRIVE this semester.

Bill Nye pointing upwards
Photo: “Stabilo pen″ by jbid. Flickr Creative Commons.

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING: These tips can lower anxiety, help you focus on your schoolwork, and allow you to get to bed earlier! However, please be realistic, flexible, and forgiving. Don’t stress. These are just suggested exercises. Like most exercises, you’ll get faster, better, and more comfortable with practice.

1. Set yourself a time to finish all of your homework by each night.

Allow yourself ample time to do all of your work, make time for meals, and give yourself at least 1 hour to relax and wind-down before going to bed.

2. Set yourself a time limit for reading assignments.

First, only read assignments that are due the next day. Second, give yourself a set number of hours to complete the readings (I give myself 2 hours). Third, count the number of readings you have to do. Fourth, set small goals for each hour (“I will read 2 articles for the first hour and 3 articles in the second hour”).

3. Only EAT while you EAT!

Take time to enjoy your meals and not think about school or work! Try not to do work, check emails, answer calls, or text while you eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Take this time to catch-up on Gilmore Girls on Netflix or to relax to some good music.

4. Schedule in fun time – and feel GREAT about it!

I remember my pre-med days as a UNC undergrad, and it seemed like my life consisted of studying, sleeping (sometimes), and eating. If I was doing something fun, I would feel guilty or feel that I should be spending my time doing something productive. Well, FUN IS productive! As long as you’ve figured out a good balance that works for you, sprinkling in some fun activities in your calendar will keep you motivated and hopefully minimize some stress.

5. Add a little color into your life.

I’m talking PENS y’all! I’ve started using colored pens for note-taking (and stopped bringing my laptop to campus). When I take notes, they look pretty and I enjoy looking at them. It’s that simple! If you enjoy what you’re looking at, you can pay attention and focus longer. It has made note-taking and studying way more fun for me.

A cup of colorful pens
Photo: “Stabilo pen″ by jbid. Flickr Creative Commons.

So, I hope that in addition to expressing gratitude for others, I hope you add some kindness to your own life.