The Glow You Need This Holiday Season!

It probably won’t come as a surprise that improving one’s health is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. And if you have been thinking about creating a resolution like this, then you’re in luck! You can start improving your health right now by simply embracing the season of giving. Right about now you might be thinking, “It’s kind of tough getting into the spirit of giving with the way things have been going lately!” Believe me, I hear you and could not agree more: No one will soon forget 2020! But even during times like these a little perspective can go a long way in shedding some much needed light and perhaps a little generosity! 

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM

The Warm Glow Effect

Have you ever stopped and noticed how you feel right after you’ve helped someone out? Maybe you helped your child understand a frustrating assignment or spent some time listening to a friend talk about their struggles? Well, there is a good chance that shortly after spending time like this you were left with a pleasant kind sensation known in behavioral economics as the “warm glow effect.” So, let’s think about it further. Whenever you give of yourself to others whether that involves your time or money, there is direct correlation to the fact that giving comes at a personal cost. So why would we engage in something that might not necessarily benefit us? I admit that helping my child avoid getting upset immediately came to my mind! And so, it makes sense that giving to others outside of our own immediate circle may not come as easily. So why do we do it?

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM

Photocredit: Swift Economics

Researchers suggest that even though there is always a cost associated with giving, people may do so in anticipation of experiencing those positive sensations, and of course we have the research to back it up! In a now classic study performed in 2007, researchers at the University of Oregon used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to detect areas of the brain that were activated in subjects involved in either receiving money, seeing money go to a good cause, or deciding to donate money. The study found that the pleasure centers in the brains of the participants involved in all three situations lit up indicating the release of dopamine. But what was even more surprising was the fact that not only did the people who gave away money experience these brain inducing rewards, those who did so voluntarily experienced greater brain activation, especially when the money went to a good cause! Another study in 2017, found that participants who either performed a generous act or had been willing to perform one, viewed themselves as feeling happier. The researchers also found that even small acts of generosity were enough to deliver a boost of happiness!

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM

   *A few small gifts left at the bottom of a tree in my neighborhood -12/08/2020 by Deb S.

Giving Gives Back

At one point or another, we’ve all experienced the costs associated with giving, and perhaps even noticed the emotional reward that comes immediately afterwards. But did you know that the benefits can go well beyond just feeling good? In fact, it has been documented for years, and just like the studies involving the brain, researchers have found that generosity may not only help you sleep better at night, but it’s also good for your health, right down to your very genes! 

In one study, over 800 older adults were given a questionnaire about the purpose and meaning in their lives. Those who identified with statements like, “I feel good when I think of what I’ve done and what I hope to do in the future” reported fewer sleep disturbances and had a better quality of sleep overall. Another study published in 2014 examined 2 types of happiness: eudemonic (pronounced as u-day-monic) and hedonic. Hedonic happiness occurs when we experience enjoyable or pleasurable activities like going to a nice restaurant or making a fun purchase. The concept of eudemonia which was put forth by Aristotle in the 4th century B.C.E., proposes that humans are driven to become the best versions of themselves. Essentially meaning that when we fulfill our potential, we experience eudaimonic happiness. Researchers found that those with a greater sense of meaning in their lives had a 30% lower risk of death. A similar study also involving these 2 types of happiness found that beneficial changes such as lower levels of inflammatory gene expression and higher levels of antibody and antiviral genes were linked to eudaimonic happiness, while the opposite was associated with hedonic happiness.

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPM

 *photo credit to the Yin and Yang of Authentic Happiness -Constellation AI

Lastly, a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology found that participants who donated money had overall lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Chronic high levels of cortisol have been linked to adverse health effects, impacting everything from GI function, weight gain, and even memory.   

The Glow We All Need

With just a couple of weeks left to go in 2020, why not make the best of it by making an investment towards good health and wellbeing! By putting our gifts of time or money to good use, we can experience the warm glow of giving and start on the path to a healthier 2021! And remember, that both modern research and ancient wisdom agree that doing for others can help us achieve our potential and lead a more meaningful life. But then again, giving just feels good! 

 

S2C, Spelling to Communicate, nonspeaking, nonspeakers, Autism, I-ASC, Speller, nonverbal, RPMDebbie Spengler is the first to admit that sticking to a New Year’s resolution can be a challenge! But for 2021 she is committed to giving back even more than before and wishes you all a happy and healthy New Year!

 

 

References:

A functional genomic perspective on human well-being | PNAS

A neural link between generosity and happiness | Nature Communications

Brain Imaging Reveals Joys of Giving | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Is purpose in life associated with less sleep disturbance in older adults? | Sleep Science and Practice | Full Text (biomedcentral.com)

Subjective wellbeing, health, and ageing – The Lancet

The Science Of Giving Back: How Having A Purpose Is Good For Body And Brain (forbes.com)

What Is Eudaimonic Happiness? | Psychology Today

7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health | HuffPost Life

 

The mission of I-ASC is to advance communication access for nonspeaking individuals globally through trainingeducationadvocacy and research I-ASC supports all forms of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) with a focus on methods of spelling and typing. I-ASC currently offers Practitioner training in Spelling to Communicate (S2C)with the hope that other methods of AAC using spelling or typing will join our association

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