HOW GIVING CAN HELP IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH
an excerpt from the Cleveland Clinic
I’m sure you’ve had that “good feeling” experience when you’ve volunteered your time, offered emotional support to a friend or loved one or made a donation to a charity. Not only do your acts of kindness do good for others but they also help improve your health.
Biologically, giving can create a “warm glow”, activating regions in the brain associated with pleasure, connection with other people and trust. There is evidence that during gift -giving behaviors, humans secrete “feel good” chemicals in our brain such as serotonin, (a mood mediating chemical), dopamine, (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin, (a compassion and bonding chemical)
According to a study published in the International Journal of Psychosphysiology, people who gave social support to others had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t. Supportive interaction with others also helped people recover from coronary-related events.
Researchers also found that people who gave their time to help others through community and organizational involvement had greater self- esteem, less depression and lower stress levels than those who didn’t.
When researchers at the National Institute of Health looked at the functional MRI’s of subjects who gave to various charities, they found that giving stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, which is the reward center in the brain- releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the “helper’s high” and like other highs, this one is addictive too.