Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Month of Giving

In today's New York Times "Science Times" there is an excellent article by Tara Parker-Pope titled, "In Month of Giving, a Healthy Reward." She interviews Cami Walker, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

When Ms. Walker was first diagnosed, she was devastated. She went to a holistic health educator and got a surprising prescription: give a gift each day for a month. She followed this advice and details her experience in a new book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life (Da Capo Press).

Ms. Walker gave gifts like making a supportive phone call and saving a piece of chocolate cake for her husband. She said, "Giving for 29 days is not suggested as a cure for anything. It's simply a coping mechanism and a simple tool you can use that can help you change your thinking about whatever is going on. If you change your thinking, you change your experience."

The article cites several studies that document the health benefits, physical and mental, of giving. It seems that volunteerism and altruism make for a healthier life. One benefit is that helping others takes the focus off a preoccupation with one's own problems and shifts it to others.

This paradox that giving benefits the giver more than the receiver is at the heart of Christianity, which teaches that giving one's life in love results in authentic life.

I'm going to try Ms. Walker "prescription" of giving a gift for 29 days. That should take me past Christmas. How about you?

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