“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give” Winston Churchill
Giving to others nurtures us from within, gives us purpose and helps to challenge us for further development.
Studies show that giving can boost your physical and mental health. Good news in today’s world where many people are suffering from the emotional complications of a global pandemic.
From volunteering within your local community, to committing to raise money for a specific charity to helping a person cross the road, there are many health benefits associated with giving.
These can include:
- Increased self-esteem.
- Increased longevity
- Decreased depression.
- Lowered stress levels.
- Lowered blood pressure.
- Leading to greater happiness and satisfaction.
Increased self esteem
When you are helping others in need, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward and happiness becomes activated. This is known as the mesolimbic system and releases feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones, internally changing your internal wiring for the better!
Helping others has a profound effect on your brain chemistry, promoting internal joy, inner peace and realigns you with a sense of purpose, even in the face of challenging situations. Contributing to the greater good can build self-esteem and create a positive relationship with yourself.
Giving can help you live longer
There is evidence that during gift-giving, humans secrete “feel good” chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical).
According to one study, people 55 years and older who volunteered for two or more organisations were 44% less likely to die over a five-year period than those who didn’t volunteer — even accounting for many other factors including age, exercise, general health and negative habits like smoking.
Another piece of research showed that older individuals who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year, decreased their risk of hypertension by a whopping 40 percent. This could possibly be because they were provided with more social opportunities, which help relieve loneliness and the stress that often accompanies it.
There is a strong correlation of low self-esteem and future depression. If our view of ourselves improves, we could impact on the severity and intensity of any depressive thoughts, increasing self-esteem which can assist in preventing relapse into depression.
A recent study examined the ways to increase one’s sense of self-worth in a sample of adults with depression and/or anxiety.
It was found that by striving to support others (compassionate goals) lower level of symptoms and less relationship conflict we reported.
Compassionate goals are about “striving to help others and avoiding selfish behaviour”—for example, “making a positive difference in someone else’s life.”
An important for those working through or living with depression.
Lowered stress and blood pressure levels
One piece of research showed that older individuals who volunteered for at least 200 hours a year decreased their risk of hypertension by a whopping 40 percent. This could possibly be because they were provided with more social opportunities, which help relieve loneliness and the stress that often accompanies it.
In another study, researchers looked at whether spending money on others could cause a reduction in blood pressure. On three days during a six-week study, 73 participants with high blood pressure were instructed to spend $40 given to them by the researchers. Half were told to spend the money on themselves, while the other half were told to spend the money on others. The researchers found that the participants who had spent money on others had lower blood pressure at the end of the study. Notably, this effect appeared to be as large as the benefits of healthy diet and exercise.
Why does spending on others have these benefits? One possibility is that it increases how socially connected we feel. Feeling closer to the people we help can enhance our relationships with others, decreasing stress levels, which have a large impact on our health.
The world needs more people who go into the world and give their all to aid in the betterment of society. The good you put out into the world will return to you in an abundance. So go ahead and reach out to someone in need, decide what charities you’d like to give to, and identify opportunities to give back in your community. Your mental and physical health will thank you – and so will the people you help.