If someone told you that you would benefit from giving away what you have to someone else, your first instinct might be that you would lose out in that scenario. It turns out that being generous with your time and resources may be just the ticket to a happy, healthier life.
You may have heard that “If you haven’t got your health, then you haven’t got anything”, and there is a lot of truth to that. There are many paths to good health, the obvious ones like diet and exercise are often discussed in this blog. It’s also very important to remind ourselves of the mind-body connection that is the true base of a healthy lifestyle.
We have all just concluded a national holiday that focuses on giving thanks for all that has been given to us, followed up recently by a day dedicated to returning the favor by acts of thoughtfulness in action on “Giving Tuesday”. Instead of getting caught up in the quagmire of holiday craziness, try giving to yourself the gift of giving, and in turn, a healthier body and mind.
Research has shown that people who give their time to help others through community and organizational programs have greater self-esteem, less depression and lower stress levels than those who do not. Even something as simple as giving money to help a cause or an individual in need has shown health benefits like:
- Lowering your blood pressure and improving your cardiovascular health. A recent study in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that participants who gave social support to people had lower overall blood pressure and arterial pressure than those who didn’t.
- Decreasing your level of stress. A study in the Journal of Health Psychology shows that there is a naturally-induced reduction in anxiety levels, and generally more positive feelings when you are generous.
- Improves mood and reduces depression. This is not just a campfire “Kumbaya” thing. There are actual physical reactions that take place. When you act in an altruistic manner, your body releases serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin, all mood enhancers.
- Better sleep – you get a more restful sleep when you feel good about yourself.
- Less chronic pain – when you remove the stress, you remove the pain triggers.
A recent online survey of frequent volunteers reported that the overwhelming majority found that giving their time and energy to help others had a significant positive impact on their mental, emotional and physical well-being. I feel good just sharing this information with you.