Giving to others is good for you
Author: Staff Writer
Why sharing is important for your health
One of Nelson Mandela’s famous quotes is, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead”.
While giving is great for the people receiving your charity, you may not know about the benefits it has on your own person and your mental and physical health.
Scientific proof that being charitable boosts your own health
Altruism and its association to happiness and health has been well researched. Acts of compassion, kindness, and helping behaviour, provide an increased sense of well-being overall, as long as the task is not overwhelming, says the International Journal of Behavioural Medicine.
Michael Norton and his colleagues at the Harvard Business School conducted a study to determine the effect giving donations has on mental health and wellbeing. They found those people who receive money in the form of a bonus or a raise at work do become happier, but it’s those who give money to charity or to people in their immediate community who are in need, that are far happier in life.
In another experiment by the group, they gave 46 volunteers a small amount of money and told them to either buy something for themselves or spend it on someone else. Once the exercise was complete, they determined the happiness levels of the people in each category.
The results were overwhelming, where the group of people having used the money on someone else had significantly higher happiness scores than those buying something for themselves.
Three ways being charitable boosts your health
1. It relieves stress.
Holding onto your money or possessions is more stressful as it creates a need for you to hide that you’re doing so, says social psychologist Liz Dunn in the Huffington Post. This increases your body’s levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which causes all sorts of health problems.
Giving, and having people recognise you’re doing something good, increases feelings of wellbeing and decreases stress.
2. Increases your longevity.
Just like in stress, reducing the amount of cortisol flowing around your body automatically lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.
Giving lowers the levels of inflammation in your system and allows you to live a longer, healthier life.
3. Your mental health improves.
A study posted by BioMed Central explains how volunteering your time for people in need creates both a sense of improved social relationships and overall life satisfaction.
The study also found that people who are charitable have lower risk of depression, pain, stress, and psychological disorders.
Give a little and gain something money can’t buy
Giving or being charitable doesn’t mean you have to make huge efforts to make someone else’s life more comfortable. It doesn’t involve spending a lot of money either. In fact, as Norton says, charity could be something as simple as buying someone else a coffee instead of only buying one for yourself.
It doesn’t even need to be something you do on your own. Instead start a collection in your neighbourhood or office and encourage others to give too. Toys for the local orphanage, stationery for an NGO that does charitable work, non-perishable food for a rural day-care centre, or even sandwiches or fruit for the homeless in your area is a good place to start.
Something so small can have a significantly positive impact on your own health and the health around you. Can you really afford not to take part?