February, 9 2017
The warm glow that most people feel from giving back actually has a name – the “helpers high.” Indeed, volunteering, donating and offering emotional support to others not only helps those on the receiving end, they have also all been shown to boost the mental and physical health of the giver.
Good for your mental health
Those who volunteer have greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer. Older volunteers were especially likely see the mental health benefits from volunteering. Many researchers conclude that this is because volunteering provides them with physical and social activity and a sense of purpose (at a time in their lives where they otherwise might not have this).
Those who spend their money on others report more overall happiness than people who spend money on themselves. In fact, when the subjects of one study donated their money to a worthy cause, the reward system of the brain lit up. Perhaps our brains were actually wired for altruism?
Good for your physical health
However, it’s not just our brains that benefit from helping others. Studies have found that those who give to others have lower blood pressure, lower stress levels and live longer. Doing physical volunteer work increases the amount of physical activity a person is doing, which has numerous benefits for a person with an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Working with animals has the added benefit of improving mood while reducing stress and anxiety. So bonus points if you volunteer at an animal shelter!
As it turns out, the feeling of “getting more out of it than you give” may not just be a feeling when it comes to giving back. Donating your time and/or money are great ways to improve both your health and the lives of others.