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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 March 30, 2020

        What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

        What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

        Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

        You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

        This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

        What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

        According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

        Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

        There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

        How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

        When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

        Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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        1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

        One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

        The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

        Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

        2. Be Honest

        A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

        If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

        On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

        Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

        3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

        Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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        If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

        4. Succeed at Something

        When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

        Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

        5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

        Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

        Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

        If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

        If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

        Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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        6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

        Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

        You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

        On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

        You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

        7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

        Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

        Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

        Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

        When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

        Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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        In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

        Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

        It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

        Final Thoughts

        When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

        The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

        Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

        Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

        Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

        More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

        Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
        [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
        [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
        [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
        [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
        [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
        [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
        [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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