Dec 21 2014

The Health Benefits of Altruism

Published by at 11:12 am under General

Giving….is good for you.   The health benefits of altruism.

 

It’s good to give and research shows that giving is good for your health. During this wonderful time of year, we practice giving. But giving year round can prove beneficial to your overall health, sense of well being and happiness. So yes, it’s better to give then to receive, but when you give, you will receive plenty…in the form of better health, happiness and increased endorphins.

“…Altruism is when we act to promote someone else’s welfare, even at risk or cost to ourselves…”2 From the smallest acts to the grandest ones, giving to others and showing kindness through the gift of our time, understanding or financial contribution, all fall under this umbrella.  “…Altruism, including kindness, generosity and compassion, are keys to the social connections that are so important to our happiness…”1 As we strengthen these social connections and sense of community, it boosts our feelings of self worth and belonging, which results in feelings of greater happiness. And, when we are happier we are most likely healthier.

“…Some studies suggest giving to others makes people feel happier than spending money on themselves; this has even been found among kids. These good feelings are reflected in our biology: Giving to charity activates brain regions associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Scientists also believe that altruism may trigger the release of endorphins in the brain, giving us a “helpers high”…”2

People who volunteer regularly are reported to experience fewer aches and pains, have lower incidence of depression and enjoy overall better physical health then people who don’t give of themselves. Older people who give their time to others, be it friends, relatives or strangers, seem to live longer than those who don’t volunteer. Altruism also helps in the battle against addiction. Studies have shown that addicts, both adolescent and adults, who donate their time to helping others, have an increased probability of staying sober and avoiding relapse. Additional health benefits of helping others are positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness, often followed by periods of calm. It distracts us from our own problems for awhile, and helps us to put things into perspective. Reduction in stress levels and refocusing our attention away from our own problems can be very freeing, which helps to reduce stress and turn negativity around.1

And the beauty of giving is that it is contagious. When you give, it prompts others to give as well, and with this ripple effect, more people benefit then just the person at the other end of your generosity. Pay it forward. Give. Volunteer. Love. It is so good for you! Giving “…leads to a cascade of social consequences…”2 according to psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.

So go ahead and ride the giving wave past the holiday season and make it a regular part of your life. This is one more building block in living a healthy, happy life. We hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Healthiest wishes,

Kelli

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