Americans are generous people. We all like the idea of helping families in need. We volunteer, make charitable clothing donations and give what money we can. When we cannot bring our donations to a non-profit, we find charities that will pick up donations. What we may not realize is all of our good deeds do a lot to help us as well. Here are some ways when we work on helping families in need, we are actually helping ourselves as well.
- Giving back reduces our stress level. When researchers looked at links between volunteering and hypertension, they found that people who volunteer have significantly lower blood pressure. A 2013 study examined this link and found that when people, who are over the age of 50, spend at least four hours each week volunteering, they are 40% less likely to suffer from hypertension than people who do not volunteer. In 2010, another study showed that people who do not give or volunteer have higher levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone.
- People who give back live longer. People who are not selfish and spend time helping families in need are much less likely to suffer from an early death, according to research that was done at the University of Buffalo. When people are able to give something tangible to members of their family or to their friends have a reduced mortality due to stress. The examples of giving to others ranged from helping them with errands or child care.
- We feel better when we give back. They often call it the “helpers’ high.” There is a good feeling we get when we give back. There is no question about it. Researchers think this is because when we donate money or items or volunteer our time, our brains release endorphins that are considered to be the “feel good” chemicals. Scientists say that when we do good deeds, the pleasure centers of our brains are activated. This is what causes the endorphins to be released and what causes our feelings of gratitude and satisfaction.
- We are happier at work when we give back. People, who volunteer or donate items to go towards helping families in need, are happier with their jobs, are more dedicated to their work and much less likely to quit. Research, done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, backs this idea up. Researchers looked at workers who were in their mid thirties. The people who told them that they felt giving back to their communities was important to them were happier. When they went back and talked to these people three decades later, they remained happy with their lives and decisions. The bottom line from the study seemed to be that people who are altruistic are generally happier than those who are not.
- Giving back is good for our mental health. BMC Public Health looked at the link between mental health and giving back. After an exhaustive review of 40 different research studies on the link between volunteering, happiness and health, they reported that giving back by volunteering people’s time is a good thing for their overall mental health. They also reported that volunteering gives people a better sense of well being and satisfaction with their lives but also has been linked to a reduction in depression.
- Giving back makes people happier. Over time, people who donate their time towards helping families in need become happier. Research done at the University of California, Riverside has found that people who do one good thing a week are much happier. Researchers looked at people’s behavior and happiness level over more than 20 years. Research that was done at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that people who volunteer are more satisfied with their lives and are have a higher level of physical health.
- Doing one good deed leads to doing another. Psychological Science published a study in 2012 that showed when people think about good deeds they have done makes them more likely to do more good deeds. The theory is that when we feel we have been selfless we want to get that feeling again.
People like giving back to their communities. It is easy to see the reasons for this.