We all know giving is a fantastic way to help those in need. But, did you know giving is also excellent for your health and happiness? Let’s check out 5 reasons why giving can help you too!
Giving to someone in need is a great way to get that warm, fuzzy feeling immediately. But, did you know there are long-term benefits to your happiness as well? In their 2008 study, Harvard Business School professor, Michael Norton, and his colleagues found giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves.
Are these feelings tied to biology? In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and his colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect. Scientists believe altruistic behaviors release endorphins in the brain, producing the positive feeling known as the “helper’s high.”
Giving is good for your health. So good, in fact, that according to a study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, people who gave social support to others had lower blood pressure than people who didn’t. Similar studies have also found the following health benefits associated with giving:
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased self-esteem
- Less depression
- Lower stress levels
- Longer life
- Greater happiness
When you give, you’re more likely to get something back—sometimes by the person you gave to and sometimes by someone else. Several studies have suggested when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line. When we give to others, we don’t only make them feel closer to us; we also feel closer to them.
These exchanges promote a sense of trust and cooperation which strengthens our ties to others—and research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health.
Much like a yawn or laughter, giving can be contagious too! When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through Grand County. A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, show that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person and so on and so forth.
Can you really live longer from giving? Apparently, yes! According to a University of California, Berkeley, study, people 55 and older who volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than those who didn’t volunteer. The study also accounted for many other factors including age, exercise, general health and negative habits like smoking. Researchers believe one reason giving may improve physical health and longevity is it helps decrease stress, which is associated with a myriad of health issues. So, don’t forget: Give to live!
Whether you donate your time, money, or both your giving is much more than community service. It may help you build stronger social connections and even jumpstart an outpouring of generosity through Grand County. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself benefiting from a big dose of happiness along the way.