It’s that time of year when TV commercials and radio ads would have us believe we should all feel merry and bright. But let’s get real with each other. There are definitely times when sustaining a cheery mood during the holidays is about as easy as roller skating backwards up a rusty ladder to hang Christmas lights.

The reality is, this time of year, most of us feel tired and cranky, and the last thing we want to do is spend our weekends fighting angry mobs to buy our friends and family stuff they’ll never use or wear. Most of us would rather eat crickets than deal with line cutters, the faux enthusiasm of underpaid sales associates and the sweet aroma of hundreds of sweaty shoppers (do most shopping malls set their thermostats to “kill them” this time of year?).

Would it help if we told you that gift-giving is actually good for you? Would you be better able to brave the colder temps and incessant bell ringers if you knew that giving to others legitimately makes you happy and healthy?

It’s true. Here are five reasons you should embrace gift-giving this holiday season:

  1. Giving Helps You Create Memories for OthersBeyond giving something wrapped in a box (assuming you took the time to wrap it), you’re ultimately giving the gift of a potentially-awesome memory. Think about a time someone gave you something you absolutely LOVED. Maybe you screamed with joy or burst into tears (like I did when I got my first duffel bag. Hey, I was in the third grade and everyone in my class had one but me!)When you make someone that happy – guess what – you get really happy, too!
  1. Giving Improves RelationshipsThere are thoughtless gift-givers that give you socks and hand lotion every year (I’m talking to you Aunt Bev). Thoughtless gift-giving will do very little to strengthen a relationship.But when you take the time to get someone something that will have meaning for them, you literally show how much you love them. In his book, The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman says that for some people, receiving gifts is the biggest act of love. To these people, being given a thoughtful gift is more powerful than being given a hug or hearing the words “I love you.”And, when your loved one feels loved by you, they return that love in a big way, and there’s just a whole lot of love going around. All of that love makes our bodies release dopamine and we feel positively euphoric!
  1. Altruism (Fancy Word for Selflessness) Adds Meaning to Our LivesMany of us spend our lives trying to make more and more money, thinking that being wealthy will make us happy. And while financial security can certainly be a great thing, money doesn’t usually bring meaning into our lives.Harvard Business School Professor, Michael Norton, conducted a happiness study of 632 people from all over the country. What he found was that the happiest people weren’t necessarily the ones who earned the most money, but the ones who gave more. His conclusion was that altruism brings more meaning into our lives.
  1. Gift-Giving Boosts Our Self-EsteemHaving a healthy self-esteem is good for us. And one of the ways we can increase our self-esteem is by “getting things right.” When we make the right choices and the outcomes are good, we feel capable and happy.Before we can give a gift, we have to choose the right one. Seeing that smile on our loved ones face because we knew to buy them the blue turtleneck and not the green one, can give the ol’ self-esteem a big boost.
  1. Giving Gifts is Better Than SexWell, okay, almost. But it does have a similar effect on our brain.Through MRI technology, researchers have found that charitable giving lights up the same area of the brain that is responsible for our cravings (food and sex) and pleasure rewards. The best part is, if you give the right gift to the right person, it could actually lead to sex – and that’s a definite win/win.

This holiday season, try not to think about standing in long lines or having someone snatch the last Fingerling out of your hands. Instead, focus on how awesome gift-giving really is. Especially when you give the gift of healthy skin.

Wink-Wink.