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How Making Gift-Giving A Habit Improves Your Mental Health

How Making Gift-Giving A Habit Improves Your Mental Health

“People are naturally selfish and everyone just looks out for themselves.” How many times have you heard or thought of a statement like this? Is it true? According to a recent study about selfishness, it appears that people are not naturally selfish! In the study, they discovered that even when the part of the brain that controls generosity was interrupted, participants in the study acted generously out of impulse. This study showed that selflessness can be a natural response, instead of an effort.

This is good news for people who want to build a habit of gift giving. It won’t be so hard to do after all, when your natural impulse is to be generous. If you have ever gone through a season where you are constantly taking and never giving, you will know that it wears on you after a while. Constantly taking and never giving back can actually prevent happiness, the one thing that people around the world are looking for.

Psychologists say that giving gifts can improve our mental health, which generally makes us happier. They take it one step further by saying that if you give without the expectation of receiving anything in return, your mental health will definitely improve and you will feel good inside about what you have done.

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If you want to improve your mental health by making a habit of gift-giving, here are some tips that will help you accomplish your goal:

1. Gifts Aren’t Just for Special Occasions

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    Most people think of gifts in relation to birthdays, Christmas, and other events that call for gift-giving. People are generally expected to give gifts for these types of occasions though, and while you will feel some satisfaction from choosing the right gift for someone, it is not enough to create the kind of happiness that selfless giving bestows upon the giver.

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    While you are trying to make a habit of gift-giving, think outside the box. Make a list of the people in your life that you want to bless, and give a gift to each of them without an occasion to go with it. They will be surprised and pleased at your show of generosity. Just remember to keep your gifts appropriate. Giving a new girlfriend an expensive piece of jewelry will only have her running for the door! Instead, try a small token to let her know that you are paying attention when she talks about what she likes.

    Another option here is to start paying closer attention to the needs of your loved ones, and focus your gift-giving on meeting those needs. If your sister needs her car’s oil changed but can’t afford it or make time to get it done right now, offer to take her car in and pay for the oil change. If you have the means to meet some of the needs around you, do it – once you build this habit, your life will change from solely caring about your own needs, and you might find that others start helping you with your needs after you spend some time meeting theirs.

    2. Be Selfless, But Don’t Forget Yourself

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      It is possible to be too selfless. If you don’t take care of yourself, you will find yourself in a bad place both emotionally and financially. While you are making a permanent habit of gift-giving, don’t forget that you deserve a gift every now and again as well. Sometimes people wait to receive certain gifts from others, thinking that their self-worth is tied to whether or not a person shows them appreciation by giving them the gift. But your self-worth cannot come from other people, not even your spouse! You are who you are, regardless of who does or does not give you gifts. So give yourself a gift once in a while. After all, who knows what you want to receive more than you do?

      A few years ago, I received a retroactive raise from my job, and it came just before Christmas. I had already bought gifts for my loved ones, so I used the money to buy myself a Christmas gift – one that I knew no one would be able to afford to give me as a gift anyways! I bought a keyboard with all the bells and whistles, and years later, I still have it and use it. It was not selfish of me to give that gift to myself. I worked hard for that money, and it was nice to be able to give myself a gift like that. Don’t go overboard with gifts for yourself, but try it every now and again. Happiness can come from giving gifts to others AND yourself.

      3. How Much Should You Spend?

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        The consumerism in our culture today is almost sickening when it comes to gift-giving. Both the giver and the recipient fall prey to associating the cost or value of the gift with how much the giver cares for the recipient. We have all heard the saying “It’s the thought that counts,” but is it true? If you do put thought into the gifts you give to people, this saying will be true for you.

        Again, gifts don’t have to be elaborate or expensive – they can be as simple as making someone’s favorite cookies, buying lunch for a co-worker from a restaurant you know they love. The key is to think about what the person needs or wants, and then provide it. Even if the gift isn’t perfect, the recipient will recognize that you are paying attention to what they talk about day to day, and truly care enough about them to try and give them something that they really do need or want. When they can see the thought behind your gift-giving, you will find the appreciation and happiness that comes from selfless giving.

        Try Gift-Giving Today!

        As you start your new habit of gift-giving, remember, what will improve your mental health is not the value of the gifts you give; it’s the act of giving that will bring you happiness. You may encounter some skeptical people along the way because many people still believe that everyone is basically selfish. Don’t give up on them – your real gift to these people is the act of kindness, that proves people can be selfless in today’s society. As you give your gifts, encourage others to do the same to their friends and family members. If everyone were to care about the needs of others more than their own needs, all of our needs would be met!

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        Last Updated on January 15, 2019

        How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

        How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

        Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

        In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

        Step right up, don’t be shy!

        Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

        The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

        Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

        Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
        So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

        A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

        Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

        Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

        When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

        Culturally Conditioned

        We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

        I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

        The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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        Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

        Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

        Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

        1. Broadens Your Network

        After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

        2. Improves Your Communication Skills

        I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

        Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

        3. Continually Learning

        So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

        Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

        4. Increases Self Confidence

        Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

        Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

        So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

        How to Talk to Strangers

        Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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        1. Say Hello

        Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

        Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

        Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

        2. Ask About Them

        Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

        You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

        As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

        3. Just Do It

        One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

        When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

        Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

        4. Don’t Take It Personal

        One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

        When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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        5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

        I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

        One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

        6. Detach

        A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

        Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

        7. Share Your Stories

        Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

        To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

        So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

        8. Give a Compliment

        Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

        When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

        9. Relax Your Body Language

        If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

        When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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        If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

        10. Practice, Practice, Practice

        Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

        Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

        After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

        The Bottom Line

        As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

        There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

        Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

        Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

        More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

        Reference

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