Seven ways giving is good for you
Why being benevolent makes you feel better
“It’s better to give than to receive,” our parents always told us, although we always questioned their logic come birthdays and Christmas. But it turns out they were right all along: giving to others, whether through charity, volunteering, a generous present or a satisfying job, has a range of benefits that makes us into better people all round. Here’s seven ways giving is good for you.
1. Doing things for others makes us happy
Think some ‘retail therapy’ can improve your mood? Actually, scientists have discovered that helping others has a greater effect on our state of mind: committing acts of kindness releases dopamine, the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter, which results in a lift in positive emotions. So step away from that online sale…
2. It improves our physical health…
It may seem like a stretch to say that being big-hearted is good for your heart, but research has suggested a link: over-50s who volunteer regularly have lower blood pressure than those who don’t. In fact, it can help us fend off diseases and even let us live longer. Time to spread the love!
3. ...and our mental health too
The hormone oxytocin is released into the body when we do something compassionate or work with others towards the greater good. This lowers stress levels and increases feelings of social attachment, making us calmer, grounded and connected – basically a win-win situation.
4. Volunteering can keep you active
Ever mucked out a stable? It’s a workout you won’t forget in a while, and if you give your time at, say, a city farm or animal sanctuary, you might find yourself doing just that. If the idea of going to the gym leaves you cold, some sort of active volunteering could be ideal exercise. Think about becoming a youth activity leader, working in a community park or, if you’re feeling adventurous, helping the National Trust with historic house maintenance.
5. It can make your community a better place for all
Giving has a domino effect. If people see you helping others, they’re more likely to do it themselves. So if you’re volunteering in your local community, you’re not only making it a better place for you and everyone who lives in it, you’re encouraging everyone else to get involved too.
6. There’s a sociable side to giving
Volunteering opens up a whole new way of meeting people. You’ve already got your altruism in common, and you may well find there’s a lot more besides. There’s plenty of that warm, fuzzy feeling to go around.
7. It can give us a purpose in life
Seriously. Having a purpose outside ourselves is like therapy for the body and soul: it can help us see ourselves in a better light, resulting in better sleep, improved self-perception and overall greater life satisfaction over the long term. These are not things we get from maxing out our credit cards on Black Friday.
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