Health benefits of giving back

You have heard of “runner’s high,” but do you know about “giver’s glow”? Some studies show that being generous, both of your time and money, not only helps those in need, but also had physical and emotional benefits for the giver.

According to Deborah Fields, a licensed clinical professional counselor for the Advocate Health Care Employee Assistance Program and an Advocate Family Care Network therapist, giving back may:

Lower blood pressure

Some research has shown that older adults who volunteer may be less likely to have high blood pressure. This means, in turn, that they have lower risk for heart disease and stroke.

Improve self-esteem

People who give their time to help others through community had greater self-esteem, life satisfaction and sense of purpose.

Less depression and anxiety

Whether it’s volunteering or donating cash, selfless action can help lessen the risk and symptoms of depression and anxiety due to focusing outside of oneself.

Lower stress levels

Giving time and assistance to others reduces the mortality risk tied to stress, a known risk factor for many chronic diseases.

Foster social connection

Studies suggest that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.

Increase happiness

Expressing gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

“Charitable giving and volunteering are associated with increased activity in a brain area that functions as part of the reward system,” says Fields. “These changes within the brain help to explain why helping others has multiple health benefits.”