The Christmas holiday season is a time when our thoughts turn to giving. All too often, giving translates to material purchases and mad dashes to the shopping mall. But some of the most precious gifts are the gifts we give of ourselves, of our time, of our energy.
This can be a joyous season, but for many it can also be a time of great stress, a time when troubles can seem magnified. By helping a friend or neighbor, you can temporarily lighten someone else's load. And if your help involves physical activity, it has the added benefit of helping your bones with a weight bearing activity at the same time!
How I Helped My Neighbor and My Bones
Recently, my next door neighbor fell ill with the flu. She and her husband, a young couple, both work long hours and are the proud parents of an adorable baby boy. During her illness, the baby was stuck indoors with her.
Remembering the days when my children were infants, I had the idea of offering to take the baby with me on my daily walks, giving him some fresh air and some much needed free time for his mother. She recovered fully in a couple of weeks, and during that time I was able to help in a small way and build a stronger bond with my neighbors. Not to mention my bones were helped at the same time.
How Can You Help?
So during this holiday season, take the initiative to do something similar. There are so many ways to make a difference in someone’s life and so many who would appreciate a helping hand. And no less important, this is a great opportunity to connect with those around you.
Here are just a few simple suggestions, but I'm sure you'll come up with many more on your own. Just try to make sure that whatever you come up with involves moving and using your muscles, so you’ll not only build new or closer relationships in your community, you’ll also be building your bones!
- Offer to take a neighbor's infant or toddler for a walk, as I have done.
- Offer to walk a neighbor's pets.
- Run errands or do grocery shopping for an ill or elderly friend or neighbor. And of course don't forget to leave your car at the far end of the parking lot to get a bit more exercise. Make sure you wear the appropriate shoes.
- If you know someone who is dealing with a difficult pregnancy while caring for young children, offer to take the kids to the park. But don't sit on the bench and watch the kids play! Get involved. Push them on the swing or get on the swing yourself and get those legs pumping.
- Lend an ear. If you have a friend who is going through difficult times, offer to go for a walk (or two or three) and provide a listening, non-judgmental ear.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or religious institution. But instead of standing behind the counter serving, offer to prepare the food or assist with the clean-up – anything that will get you moving!
Keep the Holiday Spirit Year-Round
Many of us are brimming with goodwill and charitable thoughts during the holiday season. Churches, synagogues, and other organizations turn away volunteers who are all eager to serve Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners, only to end up begging for assistance once the new year rolls around.
The needs of your friends, neighbors, and community don't go away when the season ends. Consider making a pledge (a New Year's resolution if you'd like to call it that) to keep offering your help on an ongoing basis.
It doesn't have to be much, and it doesn't have to impinge on your schedule. Just do what you can, and try to make giving a regular part of your life. For example, instead of a scarf or tie, how about giving your elderly or infirm neighbor a “good-will coupon” good for a year's worth of monthly shopping trips or errand runs?
I’m sure you'll find the rewards, both physical and emotional, more than worth the effort.
Good News: Good Deeds are Good for Your Bones
Did you know that good deeds have been scientifically proven to reduce stress?
It's true. Psychologist David Lewis conducted a study at the University of Sussex's Mindlab that measured the stress levels of a group of men and women who performed daily good deeds over a nine-day period. Among his conclusions: “Being more considerate can reduce stress levels.”
I devote a whole chapter in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program to stress and how it affects your bone health by acidifying your pH and the most effective and easy ways to reduce the damaging effects of it.
So the benefits of doing good are manifold. On top of the warm, fuzzy feeling you get from knowing you helped a fellow human being, you'll actually improve your bone health by reducing your stress levels and, when your help takes an active form, adding some weight-bearing activity to your life.
Wishing you all joyous, happy and very healthy holidays… and a New Year filled with increasing bone health!