10 ways giving back can benefit your mental and physical health

Beyond just generally being a good thing to do, giving can also be good for you. There have been a number of studies that suggest generosity and giving back could positively impact an individual’s health both mentally and physically.

Here are 10 ways giving back can be beneficial to your mental and physical health.

You can feel an immediate surge in happiness.

There’s science behind why you might experience a surge of happiness when you do something kind or generous for someone else.

A 2016 study from the University of the South suggests that performing “random acts of kindness”for others or for the world can boost your mood. The study found that helping others can boost your mood more so than if you had done something to help yourself.

Medical News Daily also noted these acts might help to boost your mood because doing them encourages your body to release dopamine, which gives you what some call a “helper’s high.”

Giving to others can boost your overall life satisfaction.

You can feel a lot happier. Shutterstock

Some studies suggest giving back can actually boost your overall life satisfaction.

A 2017 report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute noted that people are happier overall when they give to others and that the more they do or give, the happier they tend to be. It’s simply referred to as “the joy of giving.”

The study found that men experienced more happiness when they first started giving and women felt happier when they increased their generosity over time.

In some cases, volunteering can help decrease depressive symptoms over time.

It can benefit your mental health. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A study published in the Oxford Journal, The Gerontologist, analysed the mental and physical health of environmental volunteers over a 20-year-period.

The study was focused on environment-based volunteering and researchers found that some participants reported having fewer depressive symptoms after volunteering.

Other non-environmental focused studies have also noted that generosity has been linked to lower rates of depression.

Providing support may lower your blood pressure.

Giving support to others has also been linked to lower blood pressure. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that those who “gave social support to others” typically had lower blood pressure readings.

Giving might lower your stress levels.

High stress levels can take a toll on your health, but some suggest giving back can help you to reduce them.

According to Stephen G. Post, professor of preventive medicine and the director and founder of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University, acting generously and giving back could help lower your stress levels.

Read More: 6 little things you can do to become happier, according to science

Giving back to others might help you live longer.

Helping others can be beneficial to your health. iStock

Some research suggests altruism is linked to a longer lifespan.

A 2012 study published in Health Psychology found that, in their participation pool, the older adults who volunteered “were at lower risk for mortality four years later,” especially those who volunteered regularly.

Although more research is needed to solidify a correlation between lifespan and giving back, it’s worth noting that motivation played a role in this study. Those who were giving back with the intention of reaping personal benefits did not necessarily have a lower risk for mortality in a few years.

Volunteering your time may improve your heart health.

Altruism can be good for your heart. iStock

A 2013 experimental trial from researchers at the University of British Columbia found that their teen participants who volunteered and reported boosts in altruism were the group most likely to have “the greatest decreases in cardiovascular risk over time.”

Researchers looked at BMI, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, which can be markers for heart health.

The study also noted that giving back positively impacted the self-esteem of most participants.

It can boost your quality of life.

It’s a great way to create a sense of community. Syda Productions/Shutterstock

Volunteering can help some individuals, particularly older ones, have a more positive quality of life.

A 2011 review by researchers Mima Cattan, Eddy Hogg, and Irene Hardill found that the majority of studies they looked at depicted “a positive association between older people’s quality of life and engagement in volunteering.”

Generally, their review suggests that those who volunteer seem to report a better quality of life.

Giving back may help prevent cognitive issues down the road.

Giving back can have short-term and long-term benefits. iStock

It’s never too early or too late to start volunteering. A 2014 study suggests that volunteering later in life may reduce older adults’ risk of developing dementia. The study also noted that those who volunteered regularly reported fewer cognitive problems in general.

Volunteering might also help you to maintain your functional health as you age.

It can help you to maintain your strength and mobility. M.Dolly/flickr

As you get older, volunteering might also help protect your functional health.

A 2006 study published in the Journal of Urban Health suggests that volunteering might help older adults maintain their strength and mobility. Although further research may be needed, the results could apply to other age groups as well.

If this has inspired you to give back, be sure to donate to worthy causes.

Feeding America has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator and helps to eliminate hunger.

United Way Worldwide has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator and will benefit those affected by the California Wildfires.

The Trevor Project has a 4-star rating on Charity Navigator and an A rating on Charity Watch and benefits LGBTQ youth providing crisis intervention.

You can find more worthy and reputable charities here.

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