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How to Start an Altruistic Christmas Tradition

Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it! Christmas is about spending time with family, giving to others and of course—the traditions. Traditions are an important part of the holiday season. Does your family bake cookies to leave out for Santa? Maybe you open your presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas day. Maybe your family doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, but you still like to get together and enjoy each other’s company.

Whatever your traditions are, there’s always a way to integrate them with an altruistic lifestyle. If you and your family wants to focus on giving back to others this Christmas, here are some ideas for how to start a more altruistic Christmas tradition.

1. Get a toy, give a toy.
One way to instill altruistic values in your children this Christmas is to practice “get a toy, give a toy.” In the United States especially, we consistently find ourselves overwhelmed with stuff. You can get ahead of this trend by having children or family members give something away for each item they get. As their stockings fill up with goodies and rooms bulge at the seams from all their new gifts, you can spend time as a family going through items together to find something worth giving. Donate gently used toys or clothing to a local nonprofit organization in your community and see how you can brighten another child’s holiday season.

2. Host a book exchange.
Winter breaks and time together are the perfect opportunity for some holiday reading. Host a book exchange with your friends, family or neighbors in the community to share and swap some of your favorite books. Not only will you and your family have an enjoyable time and gain some new reading materials, but you can lead a more altruistic life by promoting the values of sharing and giving to others.

3. Have a spare change jar.
Start getting ready for next year’s Christmas today by putting out a “Charity Change Jar.” Set an empty jar where everyone can see it, then throughout the year encourage your family to chuck their spare change in the jar whenever possible. Let the coins and small bills build up over the year until the following Christmas. Then, take a vote as a family for which cause you want to donate the change to, and go together to make your contribution. A tradition like this is a fun way to get everyone involved throughout the year, and celebrate giving every Christmas.

4. Put together a package.
This Christmas, spread the joy by putting together a goody package for someone else in the community or overseas. Programs like Operation Christmas Child or military care packages give you and your family the opportunity to help others either in your neighborhood or in the global community. Make a tradition every year to put together a package full of Christmas goodies, helpful items or kind notes to brighten up someone’s day during the holiday season.

5. Volunteer with a cause.
Finally, one tradition that never goes out of style: volunteering with a cause you care about. Get your family together this Christmas and make an effort to go out into the community and give back with a local nonprofit organization. Having a tradition like this emphasizes the value of altruism throughout the year, but especially during the holiday season.

This Christmas, celebrate with your loved ones by making new traditions with an altruistic spin. Start a Christmas tradition that not only brings your family together, but shows them the value of giving to, supporting and loving others.

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Last Minute Gift Ideas That Give Back

The holidays will soon be upon us, which means the season of giving has officially arrived. If you and your family celebrate Christmas, you have one week left to get the perfect gift for that special someone.

If you’re focused on living a more altruistic lifestyle, there are also lots of options out there for gifts you can give that also give back to the community. Sounds pretty great, right? We’ve compiled a list just for you on last minute gift ideas that give back. Try some of these out to celebrate the holidays more altruistically this year.

1. Small Businesses
Supporting small businesses in your community is a great opportunity to give back while giving this year. When you buy from a small business, you can feel confident in supporting an actual person in your community with actual needs like putting food on the table, rather than a high-up CEO you’ve never met before.

Small businesses and small business owners are a valuable component of any community; when you buy from them, you put money back into the neighborhood you care about, and create a more altruistic environment for those around you. This holiday season, check out local businesses nearby to see what gifts you can purchase there. Chances are they have the exact same or comparable gift you were looking at in the first place.

2. Handmade Goods
Purchasing handmade goods from your area is a great way to be more altruistic in your holiday giving this season. Some stores offer handmade goods either made by local artisans, or by artisans from different countries and communities all around the world. Oftentimes, stores like these even contribute part or all of the profits to the artisans themselves.

Look for fair trade handmade gifts to give to the special people in your life, and give while giving back. When you purchase handmade goods, not only can you be confident in supporting another person, but you can also feel more comfortable in products that are ethically made and often environmentally friendly. Check out different sources in your community to see what you can give that gives back.

3. Philanthropic Companies
Even big companies can be a great way to give back during the giving season. Many companies—both local and national—have various philanthropic causes going on throughout the year, but especially during the holidays.

Businesses like Love Your Melon (donates 50% of profits to support pediatric cancer research), TOMS (one-for-one shoe program) and Lula’s Garden (supports groups that provide access to clean water) all offer great gift ideas for loved ones on your list, while giving back part of their proceeds to causes they care about. If you do choose to buy from a large company this year, check online for some options to see companies who give back.

This holiday season, live a more altruistic lifestyle by giving gifts that give back to more than just one person. Finish out your end-of-the-year shopping by trying some of these ideas to give to your loved ones.

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Holiday Fundraiser Ideas You Can Get Involved In

The holiday season has officially arrived, and brings with it a time for merriment, cheer and giving. Giving during the holidays is one of the most joyful experiences because you get the chance to share the love of the season. Whether you give to your family, friends or complete strangers—giving can warm you up from the inside out and build a more altruistic life.

Do you want more opportunities to give to your community? We’ve compiled a list of holiday fundraiser ideas to get involved in yourself or along with other altruistic causes.

1. Polar Plunge
Lots of nonprofit organizations and community causes like the Special Olympics will host a famous “Polar Plunge” during the winter months—a time when constituents actually volunteer to swim in freezing cold water. If you’re the adventurous type and want to give back while still getting some fun exercise in, a polar plunge might be the perfect option for you. Or, branch out and see if you can get some friends together to host your own altruistic polar plunge.

2. Goods Selling
Candles, wrapping paper, cookie dough… there’s lots of goodies being sold around the holiday season, and with good purpose! Who doesn’t want their house to smell like pine trees while they drink hot cocoa and watch Christmas movies? If you want to raise some money for your community this season, selling goods is always an excellent choice. It’s simple, easy to do and tends to have a high return on investment.

3. Ugly Sweater Party
Ugly sweater parties are always a crowd favorite during the winter months, so why not host your own? Put an altruistic spin on your ugly sweater party by asking for freewill donations to a cause you care about. Or, try hosting a competition for “ugliest sweater,” where everyone pitches in, and the winner splits the earnings with a local organization.

4. Food Drive
The holidays can definitely be a tough time for some people, especially those who may not be able to provide holiday meals for their families. Get involved with or host a food drive in your community to raise food for neighborhood families in need. Or, try serving at a local shelter and help make someone’s holiday celebration that much more joyful.

5. Caroling
Caroling is a fun way to bring cheer and raise money for others. Get a group of your family or friends together and go caroling around the neighborhood, in retirement homes or at different businesses. Not only will you brighten people’s days, but you can also ask for freewill donations to raise support for a cause you care about.

6. Winter Run
If swimming in the cold isn’t really your thing, maybe running is. Check in your community to see if any nonprofits are hosting a charity winter run. Or, for added fun, host your own! Run off that Thanksgiving turkey just in time for winter and fundraise some extra money for nonprofits in your neighborhood.

7. Seasonal Contest
Finally, what about some good ol’ fashioned competition? Seasonal contests like gingerbread houses or building snowmen are a fun way to get large groups of people involved and raise a significant amount of money. If you want to put on a fundraiser for a cause close to you, seasonal contests are a great way to get started.

This holiday season, live a more altruistic lifestyle by trying out some of these fundraiser ideas you can get involved in. Whether you volunteer with a nonprofit or want to put on your own, fundraising over the holidays is one of the greatest ways to give back.

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How Giving Makes Us Happy

‘Tis the season of giving! As the air gets colder, our hearts become warmer, as we give gifts to friends, family and even the occasional strangers. There just seems to be something about the holiday season that fills us with merriment and cheer.

Maybe it’s the delicious hot chocolate that warms us up from the inside out. Maybe it’s the music we listen to and all of its upbeat melodies. Or, maybe it’s the notion that giving to others has actually been proven to make us happier. How, exactly? As we dive into the season of giving this month, let’s explore how the very action of giving can lead to a more altruistic life, improve our mood and even makes us happy.

Spending money on others makes us happier.
Not only is the holiday season a huge opportunity for giving gifts to loved ones, but it’s also a great time to donate gifts to nonprofits and organizations in need. And here’s the thing: science has shown time and time again that money can’t buy happiness. But, spending money on others actually does make us feel happier. As Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

One study conducted at Harvard Business School by professor Michael Norton found this quote to be entirely true. Norton questioned 632 people on their income level and what they actively spent money on. He also asked them to rate their own happiness. Afterwards, the study found that, regardless of income earned, the individuals who spent more money on others were decidedly happier than those who spent more money on themselves.

Generosity creates community.
Next up: generosity creates community. Since the dawn of time, humans have been notoriously communal beings. We’re social. Over generations, we have survived and thrived because we care for one another as a unit. Therefore, in many ways and across many years, giving to others has actually been a survival tactic. We give because we know that it helps society, and hope that one day when we need support, someone else will give to us.

This survival tactic may be why giving increases our happiness hormones. In fact, one study even found when we donate to a charity, our brains respond similarly to eating chocolate. With fMRI technology, researchers can now see brain activity while conducting different actions. Researchers found that when participants gave to a charitable cause, the midbrain region of the brain lit up. This area is responsible for our pleasure rewards, demonstrating the link between giving and pleasure.

Serving others also serves us.
Finally, when we serve others, we also serve ourselves and improve our own well being. In the 2010 Do Good Live Well Survey, 4,500 participants were asked a series of questions. Forty-one percent of Americans said they volunteered an average of 100 hours per year. Of those who volunteered, 68 percent reported feeling physically healthier, 89 percent stated it improved their sense of well being and 73 percent said they felt it lowered their stress levels. Even more than donating, volunteering with a cause or organization we care about can literally make us feel healthier and happier.

This holiday season, give gifts and time to your friends, family and even strangers in the community. You may find that it ends up making you just as happy as it makes them.