You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you give a gift to or do something for someone else? It’s not just your imagination! As it turns out, generous acts like giving to charity and volunteering have positive effects on your overall physical and mental health. So, just in time for the holidays, here are a few of the benefits of generosity!
1.Lower Blood Pressure And Better Sleep
Today, high blood pressure affects a whopping 75 million people in the U.S (and the stress of the holiday season probably isn't helping). Studies have shown that, in addition to a healthy diet and exercise regimen, giving can help keep those high blood pressure numbers in check and, in turn, decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.
And, do you suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea? Turns out, when you have a purpose in life (like helping others), you’ll sleep better. A 2017 study confirmed that individuals who were regularly involved in giving their time or money to causes they cared about reported having better quality sleep and were, overall, 63 percent less likely to report sleep apnea and 52 percent less likely to have restless leg syndrome.
2.Lower Risk of Anxiety and Depression
That "giving glow" you feel after doing a good deed isn't just in your imagination, it's actually the release of feel-good chemicals in your brain (serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin to name a few) that ultimately fight against the symptoms of depression and anxiety. According to a study by Rush University, donating money to a charitable cause activates the brain's reward center as well as the areas associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. In fact, because charitable giving creates such a rush of endorphins, giving can be as habit-forming as eating candy (but with fewer calories and much better results).
3.Lower Stress Levels
Did Ebeneezer Scrooge seem like a relaxed guy to you? Of course not! That's likely because stinginess (and feeling ashamed of it) can cause your stress levels to sky-rocket. A study by social psychologist Liz Dunn examined the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in individuals who were given money and then left to decide if they wanted to keep it or give it away. The results showed that those who chose to keep the cash for themselves had high levels of cortisol while those that gave their money away experienced lower levels.
With a decrease in stress comes an increase in life expectancy! That's right: generosity can help you live longer! A study conducted at the University of California, Berkeley, found that elderly people who volunteered regularly were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than their non-volunteering friends. Additionally, a study published in The Lancet revealed that individuals with a sense of purpose (including helping the people around them or causes they cared about) had a 58 percent reduced risk of death compared to individuals who did not share their altruistic feelings