There are so many great causes to support this time of year. From food for the needy to a simple visit to those without families in nursing homes, whatever the cause you wish to support, giving to the less fortunate can help people get back on track. There is much that we as individuals and through various social service organizations can do to help.

This is a great time of year to clean out your closet and give coats and clothing to a local charity. Local rescue missions are always in need of items for men women and children and as the weather gets colder, the need is great for warm coats, hats, gloves and blankets. It is a great feeling knowing that clothes we no longer need can help someone else. Giving career clothes to the local YWCA also helps women who are trying to rebuild their lives and are going out to interview for jobs.

The National Institutes of Health found that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists also believe that altruistic behavior releases endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”

When you give, you’re more likely to get back. These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation that strengthens our ties to others, and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health.

So whether you buy gifts, volunteer your time, or donate money to charity this holiday season, your giving is much more than just a year-end chore or a tax deduction; it may help you build stronger social connections and even jumpstart a cascade of generosity throughout your community. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness in the process.