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Serotonin-Induced Giving

Serotonin-Induced Giving

So, yeah, I can’t cook. Well, technically, I can cook three things: lasagna, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes. But, outside of that, my husband does most of the cooking. I had to laugh recently when my son sent a letter home from Boot Camp that said he missed Dad’s cooking! What can I say, I have other talents—not actual talents that you can perform on stage, but talents just the same. All this to say, at Thanksgiving, no one asks me to bring food. It just wouldn’t be good. Not for me to make it. Not for them to eat it. Literally, not for anyone. Instead, I thought about going all Phoebe from Friends and decking the halls of my brother’s home with the very best cups and ice that money could buy: “Cup hats, cup banner, cup chandelier, and the very thing that started it all—the cup! And, did you notice the ice? We have crushed, cubed, and dry. Ahhhh, mystical!” Instead, I opted to provide the Thanksgiving Craft!

For five years running, the ‘Thanksgiving Craft’ has been a tradition in our family. Believe it or not, I plan for months. I have a secret Pinterest board where I gather ideas. I watch Youtube videos to figure out how to make the craft difficulty level as simple as possible. I monitor Hobby Lobby’s sales, so I can get at least 40% off, even though I prefer 50%. And I come to Thanksgiving with enough supplies for everyone of all ages to make and take a craft home with them.

2013: Edible Turkeys

2014: Sock Olafs

2015: Lighted Canvas

2016: Christmas Trees

2017 Word Wreaths; 2018 TBD

This year, I did hear one family member say, ‘Don’t you secretly love it when everyone on Facebook goes crazy over our Thanksgiving craft? I love this tradition!’ I love it, too. I really look at it as the first gift of Christmas. And, the time I put into it really makes me happy. Recently, my fave blogger, Seth Godin, explained why. He wrote, “Happiness is long-term, additive and generous. It’s giving, not taking. It works on serotonin.” Oh, so that’s why it makes me feel so good!

We often hear about Black Friday shoppers out there getting a bargain, filling their carts, and grabbing the last Cabbage Patch Doll—or whatever the toy of the year might be. But, what they’re really doing is getting a quick fix of dopamine. Sadly, this pleasure that dopamine brings is fleeting–like a Red Bull buzz or a sugar rush, it comes as quickly as it goes. I had to laugh when I saw that the dopamine molecule has a “HO, HO” in it, since the holidays are often the time you see this sort of last-minute holiday giving that people do to make themselves feel good. Sadly, it’s similar to eating too many holiday goodies–while it seems like a good idea at the time, in the end there is no long-term value.

But, serotonin works differently. It can’t be bought in a store, not even on Black Friday. Serotonin produces true joy and comes from intentionality, being patient through the process, giving of yourself, and building connections while doing so. While a small year-end gift will always be appreciated, giving to the same charity throughout the year is serontastic. (Ok, I made that word up, don’t tell Merriam-Webster.) It’s true! There’s something special about being invested in the mission of your charity of choice. And, it’s not by accident. The science between how different dopamine and serotonin makes you feel is truly remarkable. And, the giving you do, now and throughout your lifetime, deserves to be remarkable, too.

What local charities are truly making a difference in our community? What mission speaks to your heart in a way that makes you want to donate not just at year-end, but throughout the year because their work is that important? What charity do you want to see continuing to serve others in 25, 50, 75 years? That’s happy serotonin-induced giving–long-term, additive, and truly generous.

Of course, I happen to think a donation to the Community Foundation would be a serotonin-worthy investment. We’re actively involved in grantmaking to other local non-profits and continually working with generous people, like our blog readers, to help make the most of every charitable dollar given. But, ultimately, we just love where we live, so we believe all charitable dollars contributed locally will significantly impact the future of Grant County.

So, here’s my plan. I intend to continue contributing locally in ways that help me make a long-term difference. I also vow, if tradition changes and my family decides to switch it up, to cook lasagna, biscuits and gravy, and pancakes for Thanksgiving. Until then, let’s all partake in some serotonin-induced giving. After all, it’s backed by science.

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