12/09/2013 03:48 pm ET Updated Feb 08, 2014

How and Why to Give This Holiday Season

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As savings and disposable income get pinched from buying gifts for friends and family during the holidays, many people stop giving to their favorite charities.

Studies have shown that giving to others actually has a positive physical effect on our bodies and mood. The more we give, the better we feel. According to a study reported on, doing good things for others actually makes you happier. Research shows there's a pleasure center of the brain that increases when people give.

Yes, money is tight this time of year. So here are some giving suggestions that will continue keeping you and others feeling good:

1. Give just a little

You don't have to be rich to donate. Any gesture of generosity, not matter how small, makes a difference. Don't think it must be an "all or nothing" approach. Non-profit organizations welcome donations of any size and often fund large projects with many small donations.

2. Give time

Many non-profits can only survive through volunteerism. Your time is a precious commodity to them. If you can't give money, give an hour or one day a month. If you're out of work, you might even find a new passion or connection.

3. Give items

Depending on the non-profit, anything from silverware to clothing to furniture to keyboards could be a welcome donation. All of us have plenty of stuff we're not using anymore that could help another person live their life a little easier.

4. Start a new tradition

Instead of spending money on gifts people may not want or enjoy, why not take the money you would've spent on gifts and donate it to charity. Send a note to friends and family about your decision encouraging them to do the same instead of buying you a gift.

5. Give unconditionally

Most importantly, when you give, never expect anything in return -- except perhaps a tax receipt. When you give unconditionally, it's like releasing thousands of molecules of love and compassion into the universe that attach themselves to people, places and events. How awesome is that!

In the words of Audrey Hepburn, "Giving is like living. If you stop wanting to give... there's nothing more to live for."