Whether it’s your time, money, or undivided attention, we know that giving feels great — but did you know that it’s actually beneficial for your health as well? It’s true. Those positive emotions you experience when you volunteer your time for a cause you believe in, donate to a charity, provide support to a friend in distress, and give a gift from your heart are creating research-backed benefits for your physical and emotional health.
One study demonstrated that giving social support was associated with reduced stress and reduced vulnerability to negative psychological outcomes. Considering that stress is the culprit in a myriad of ailments, anything that acts as a stress reducer is a powerful tool in your health toolbox.
Giving can also result in reduced anxiety, according to another study based on self-reported anxiety levels of massage therapists after treating clients. Giving may even support a longer lifespan, as indicated by this study of older adults which found that those who helped others reduced their risk of dying by nearly 60% compared with peers who did not offer support to relatives, neighbors and friends. Further, older adults who give through volunteering their time are 40% less likely to die over a 5-year period than non-volunteer peers.
Giving also provides health benefits by increasing our connection to others. An increased sense of connection produces oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure and increases self-esteem. Giving is an act of kindness, and being kind to others increases the production of serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of satisfaction, well-being, and calmness. Furthermore, acts of kindness reduce pain via the production of endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers.
The act of giving also invites us to take our focus off of ourselves and place it on others. By removing the focus from what’s wrong in your own life, you experience relief from heavy emotions, ultimately leading to a life of greater satisfaction and happiness. Not only does giving benefit your own emotional and physical health, the act becomes a virtuous cycle as the receiver benefits and is inspired to pay it forward. If you’re not sure where to begin, keep in mind that gestures need not be grand to be effective.
Giving can be as simple as tipping your barista an extra $5, donating clothing or household goods to someone in need, or volunteering each week at a local food bank. To get the most out of giving, act from the heart rather than from a place of obligation. With all of the mental and emotional benefits for the giver and the receiver, why not look for one small (or big) way you can begin giving more today? Once you start looking, you’ll see opportunities to give everywhere.
Writer Katie Gerber is a holistic health and nutrition coach serving clients locally in the front range as well as online. In 2014, she completed Aviva Romm’s Herbal Medicine for Women certification. After thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2014 and the Colorado Trail in 2016, Katie decided to use her botanical medicine and nutrition knowledge to help fellow wilderness lovers seeking more energy and better health. She transitioned from her career as a pastry chef, and enrolled in the Institute for Transformational Nutrition. She now uses her lifelong passion for holistic health with her background in the culinary arts to help people live healthier lives, in alignment with nature.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.