How giving can boost your mental health this holiday season

Posted at 7:39 PM, Dec 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 21:39:39-05

The season for giving is here – and comes with its own set of health benefits.

Whether acts of kindness, giving groceries to the food bank, or a little bit of change to help strangers in need, service brings a warm holiday feeling – as well as a mental health boost to the person who gives, said Francine Miller, clinical social worker at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“One of the things that drives humans is connection, volunteering and giving to others creates that connection,” Miller said. “This can include connecting to people we’ve never met or never will meet and working with others on a service project. By serving, we’ve accomplished something. When we accomplish something, we are able to feel better about ourselves and our situation, which supports serotonin production to help develop a more positive outlook.”

Anxiety and stress can lead people to develop negative thought processes, which can turn a person inward and break down human connections, Miller said. Giving back and voluntarism can recreate those needed human connections.

Karen Hansen has spent the past 20 years volunteering for the Festival of Trees, a holiday event that benefits children’s health and patients at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.

“It fills my heart,” said Hansen, co-chair of the Festival of Trees Volunteer Board. “It’s the best place I know to be able to serve with other people, and to serve children who have greater needs than my children ever have had. It fills my soul to know I’m part of something bigger, and that I couldn’t do on my own.”

The Festival of Trees is presented by Intermountain Foundation and brought to life by a dedicated volunteer board of 80 individuals, who enlisted the talents of thousands of families, organizations, and businesses throughout Utah and neighboring states.

The holiday tradition is in its 51st year, and is scheduled through Saturday, Dec. 4. To prioritize the health and safety of the community, the event will take place virtually at

“This is a great way for the community to give back, and to know that their participation is helping patients and families who need the support now more than ever,” Hansen said.

Here are four ways you can help kids through the Festival of Trees:

- Bid on any of the hundreds of large and small trees in the silent auction starting Nov. 30. Volunteers donated more than 350 beautifully decorated, themed trees, twinkling with thousands of lights. The silent auction ends Dec. 2.

- Get one-of-a-kind gifts and goodies for loved ones on your Christmas list at the silent auction.  Volunteers also have provided about 75 wreaths, 1,500 pounds of fudge in various flavors, quilts, playhouses, gingerbread houses, nativities, centerpieces and collectibles. These gifts and more are available at the silent auction Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.

- Buy quilts, wreaths, and other seasonal items, and choose from 1,500 pounds of Festival of Trees fudge in various flavors. These items are available for purchase anytime during the festival, Nov. 30 through Dec. 4, at

- Give generously at

Festival of Trees last year raised $1.2 million to support Primary Children’s Hospital. Organizers hope to meet or exceed that amount this year with the help of a generous community.

To view items for sale and auction, as well as stories about Primary Children’s patients and families who benefit from community support, visit