Thanksgiving is a special occasion—we get to take a day off of work to spend time with friends and family, eat delicious food, kick back and relax. It also serves as a reminder to be grateful for all we have in our lives that keeps us healthy, wealthy and wise. This reminder to be grateful may be why we feel a spark during these holidays to give back, so we can help make someone else’s life a little brighter too.
Now more than ever, we need to take care of each other and give back. With the most recent elections behind us, some of us feel polarized and disconnected, anxious and a little stressed about the future.
Let’s take this opportunity to lend a neighbor a helping hand and embrace the health benefits that come along with counting our blessings and being selfless.
You would think that taking a $50 bill and buying yourself something nice would make you happy. However, multiple studies have shown that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than if they spent the money on themselves. Researchers have found that when people participate in the act of giving, whether it’s time or money, a region of the brain is activated to feel pleasure, social connection and trust. Furthermore, this selfless behavior produces a positive feeling known as the “helper’s high” from the release of endorphins in the brain.
2. Lessen stress
Stress can lead to any number of illnesses and “dis-ease,” and even mortality. One way to practice prevention is to feel good about yourself by doing good for others. The benefits of volunteering include helping to reduce stress while increasing self-esteem. But concentrating on something else is the main reason why volunteering helps to lower stress levels. By being present and in the moment, you can leave behind your problems and begin to give your body a chance to recover from your previous stressors.
3. Reduce depression and anxiety
When you help put a smile on someone else’s face, in turn it helps you stay hopeful and optimistic. The act of giving allows you to witness a kind of magic that lifts people up, so how in the world could you be sad and anxious after making such a positive impact? You can’t! Because whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of a gift, the gift will elicit feelings of gratitude. Gratitude is integral to happiness, health and social bonding. When gratitude is expressed in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but other people’s as well. Overall, selfless action helps reduce your anxiety and depression because of the focus outside of oneself.
4. Make your heart happy
“There is no better exercise for your heart than reaching down and helping to lift someone up.” – Bernard Meltzer
Fill your heart with all sorts of goodness when giving back and volunteering. Studies show that people who give back have less risk of heart disease, and giving back also reduces the risk of high blood pressure in older adults by up to 40 percent.
5. Enhance longevity
Volunteering or donating does more than boost your mood—it has effects on your physical well-being, too. According to a study by UCLA, volunteering even helps you live longer! This one ties into reducing your stress; you in turn enhance your longevity. The social interaction that often comes from volunteering can also significantly reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.
There are dozens of opportunities in our community that will allow you to volunteer or donate. Grab a friend today and start to feel happier and healthier through the holidays while giving back!
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