Studies show that helping others actually boosts your physical and mental well-being.
Research has shown that giving to others stimulates the same areas of the brain that are stimulated by pleasurable activities, such as eating and sex. And yet sometimes we can be reluctant to take the leap and give it a try.
So, in case you’re in need of some motivation, here are four ways that volunteering will improve your health, from Barbara R. Edwards, MD, at PsychCentral:
- Boosts your confidence. Volunteering can remind you that you have a purpose in life, that your contributions are valuable, and that you do have the capability to make a difference.
- Decreases stress. A study from Carnegie Melon shows that those who volunteer regularly often have lower blood pressure. Both the psychological and physical effects of volunteering can decrease stress and anxiety by allowing you to help others, meet new people, move around, and shift focus away from your own life for awhile.
- Lowers the risk of depression. Spending time with others can help increase socialization and support, lowering your chances of struggling with loneliness and developing depressive symptoms.
- Longevity. A study showed that those who volunteer live longer than those who don’t. However, the study also showed that one’s intention in volunteering played a vital role. Those who volunteered for selfless reasons experienced positive effects on their health, while those who volunteered for selfish reasons did not.
Jenny Santi, author of The Giving Way to Happiness: Stories & Science Behind the Life Changing Power of Giving, wrote, “The key is to find the approach that fits us. When we do, then the more we give, the more we stand to gain purpose, meaning and happiness — all of the things that we look for in life but are so hard to find.”