By Zoë Muntaner
Despite confronting more than its fair share of the regional homelessness crisis and an up rise in criminal activity, Santa Monica ushers the holiday season with plans beyond the celebrated material consumerism of the season. Many local businesses have high hopes while many non-profits await end of year giving.
Coined “Giving Tuesday,” the annual give-back event that falls this year on Nov. 28, accounts for a large percentage of overall giving throughout the year, according to Cause Vox.
Many people feel especially generous during the holidays and get a final chance at tax-deductible charitable donations.
Giving Tuesday has brought the idea of holiday giving to the greater population. The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday kick off the holiday giving season, inspires people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.
Santa Monica City is looking to ride the charitable giveback wave.
“For our 8.3 square miles, Santa Monica has a tremendous nonprofit network that makes our residents, environment, and community stronger,” said Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer. “Giving Tuesday isn’t just about giving donations it’s also about making a commitment to get involved and to give your time and talents to community-serving organizations.”
Winterer issued a statement Nov. 20 that read: “Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to encourage citizens to serve others throughout this holiday season and during other times of the year.”
Giving back also has a positive impact on mental wellbeing. A recent study in 373 older adults found that many aspects of wellbeing were higher in those who did volunteering projects, compared with those who did not.
Research into the brain has shown that giving and co-operating with others can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, helping to create positive feelings. Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth. Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones, and of course, relationships with others also influence mental well-being. This is particularly relevant since certain people may feel anxious or depressed around the winter holidays due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.
So the question remains, if giving promotes cooperation and social connection why didn’t Santa Monica Chief of Wellbeing Julie Rusk use the City’s Wellbeing Index data to devote resources to this strategy? Although we have a high volunteer rate compared to the rest of the country and state, the latest findings reveal we do not have strong local networks. When it comes to Neighborhood Relationships 56 percent of Santa Monica residents feel they can count on their neighbors compared to 80 percent in a US/national survey. Instead, the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Civic Wellbeing has launched a new six-month pilot project with Fitbit wearable devices as a way to gain additional data about the factors that contribute to an active lifestyle among 90404 residents.
As we approach new year resolutions it would be wise to remind ourselves of the Latin dictum: “Orandum est ut sit mens sana in corpore sano.” According to Aeria Gloris, a balanced meaning is. “You should strive for both a healthy mind and a healthy body”, but it could also mean “It’s no use to have a healthy body if your mind is not healthy.” Whichever the case, let’s err on the side of giving.
For more information on Giving Tuesday in Santa Monica go to: bit.ly/SaMoGives. Follow/Like Facebook Page: @GivingTuesdaySaMo. Use Hashtag: #SaMoGives.