“’Tis better to give than to receive.”
Like many of us, you probably learned that expression from your parents. And when the time came, you probably passed it along to your kids and grandkids.
Turns out that familiar old saw is actually true. The value of generosity can’t be overstated. And you’ve probably reaped the rewards of giving many times yourself.
You know that warm, fuzzy feeling you get when you make a donation or help a loved one or those less fortunate during the holidays? Sure, that’s the spirit of the holidays, the most magical time of year. But it’s also something more.
You’ll enjoy the health benefits of giving all year-round!
You see, when you to take up a financial collection, donate food or clothing, or volunteer your time to help others during the holidays, you’re also making a valuable gift to yourself.
Studies have shown that giving to others provides physical and psychological health benefits. Even better, you can reap those rewards not just during the holidays, but any time of year.
Here are four very health benefits of being generous all year round:
1. You’ll live longer:
Want to live longer? Become a volunteer.
A study out of the University of California Berkley found that people over 55 who regularly volunteered for two or more organizations were 44 percent less likely to die within five years, compared to people who didn’t volunteer at all.
And it’s not just people who were healthy to begin with.
Another study, this time following people with heart disease, found that volunteering up to 200 hours per year made them less likely to have another heart attack than their less-generous counterparts. Which makes sense when you consider…
2. You’ll improve your overall health:
Several separate studies, following people ranging in age from teenagers to seniors, found that markers of overall health were better in people who gave back to their communities.
People of all ages experienced lower LDL numbers—the “bad” cholesterol that you want to keep low—along with healthier BMIs, or body mass index.
But it was the older volunteers who really showed impressive outcomes. Seniors who donated their time to helping others had lower blood pressure, healthier blood sugar levels and even less of the most dangerous belly fat than non-volunteers did.
3. You’ll recover more easily from grief or depression:
Rush University reported on a study of people who had recently lost loved ones. It found that helping others through volunteering and charitable donations helped ease the grieving process.
In another study published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology, researchers found that giving to others helped with symptoms of clinical and situational depression, like sadness or lack of energy.
Study participants reported they felt more in control of their own lives when they were helping other people with theirs. It also gave their lives meaning and purpose that had been missing.
4. You really will feel better:
You know that warm glow you get when you give to others? Well, it’s a real, physical response.
Any type of giving—whether it’s time, money, goods, or anything else—triggers the production of serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin in your brain. These chemicals help ease your mood, make you happy and allow you to feel compassion while bonding with others.
Researchers at the National Institute of Health looked at MRIs of people’s brains and discovered that along with flooding the brain with “feel-good” chemicals, being generous actually activates the reward center in the frontal lobe. They’ve dubbed it “the helper’s high.” It’s a very real experience and fortunately, for others, makes you want to do it again.
It turns out that familiar old phrase we taught our kids and grandkids really is a philosophy to live by. Because science has now shown us, it truly is better to give than to receive!