You’re probably familiar with the warm and fuzzy feeling you get when helping someone else or doing meaningful work to uplift those around you. But did you know that helping others and giving back can impact your health? Your body and mind are part of a connected system that responds positively to positive action, even if you might not realize it.
If you needed another reason to give back, there are plenty. Whether you volunteer your time in-person, find creative ways to donate supplies or fund raise for causes you care about, giving back has the power to start a positive chain reaction in the world, including the one right at home in your body.
1. It Can Make You Happier
Giving back, volunteering or doing any positive act for others can create a warm feeling that results in immediate happiness. Your brain makes the positive association with connecting with someone or doing something kind for them, which can boost your mood and self esteem.
Helping others releases dopamine, a happiness chemical in your brain, which gives you an instant lift in your mood. Helping other people is even more likely to provide a boost in your mood than doing something for yourself, which speaks to the power of giving back.
2. Your Mental Health Can Improve
Just like helping others can offer an immediate mood boost, giving back consistently can improve your mental health long term. By contributing to healthy self esteem and positive, compassionate goal setting, giving back on a regular basis can lower your risk for anxiety and depression overall. While giving back won’t fix everything, steady improvements in mental health can be an added benefit for those looking to find more meaning and purpose through giving back in their communities.
3. You Can Live Longer
While it may seem a bit unusual, the link between volunteering and longer lifespans is actually one worth considering. Studies show that specifically older adults who give back and volunteer are less likely to be at a high mortality risk, even years down the road. Specifically, giving back with the intention to do meaningful work and have a positive impact on others shows the possibility of reaping benefits related to lifespan.
It makes sense that volunteering, which increases positivity and other health benefits, would result in a longer lifespan by default. Even if you mostly notice the mental health benefits, that positive shift can do wonders for your physical health.
4. It Can Lower Your Blood Pressure
Specifically in older adults, volunteering has the potential to lower blood pressure as much as 40%. This could be a result of socialization, which is beneficial for heart health. As people age, they often experience less social interaction than they have for most of their lives, and volunteering could be a great way to intentionally experience that socialization through helping others in your community.
5. Your Stress Levels May Drop
That warm and fuzzy feeling, in addition to having a positive impact on your immediate mood and mental health, may also help lower your stress levels. Studies show that in both adults and adolescents, giving back can help people experience less stress in their lives. Obviously, external factors play a role in stress levels, but giving back and experiencing the mental benefits of generosity can shift perspective and help improve overall stress levels, resulting in a healthier, happier lifestyle.
6. Your Overall Quality Of Life Can Improve
People of all ages and volunteer roles often experience an improvement in their quality of life when they begin volunteering. Giving back can help boost positivity and provide new perspectives on the world, which can combine with other positive benefits like lower stress and more frequent happiness to provide a better overall quality of life for those who volunteer.
While it’s important to remember that giving back is about helping others (not experiencing benefits yourself) when you’re happier, healthier and experiencing a better quality of life, you can show up for those in your community more effectively and lend a stronger helping hand in whatever you do.
How You Can Give Back
If you’re looking for ways to give back, there are plenty of creative options to choose from. Whether you’re an introvert, a people person or somewhere in between, whether you like to be on your feet all day, or you’re not as comfortable with physical activity, there’s always a volunteer role that can fit your needs and strengths.
For example you could:
- Volunteer at an animal shelter
- Become a big brother or big sister
- Make supplies for your local hospital
- Volunteer for a political organization you believe in
- Spend time at a nursing home or elder care facility as a companion
- Offer your special skills to charitable organizations
There are so many ways to give back, and when you find the role that works best for you, you’ll thrive in your volunteer experience.
While volunteering is about so much more than your own personal benefit, giving back can help you thrive in your life. When you’re happy and healthy, you’re more likely to create a positive space for those around you. Giving back is a cycle, and you can be a part of it.