It is claimed that the act of giving can actually be beneficial to your health, make you feel happier, whilst providing much needed resources to charities and other good causes. What you may not realise is that there is actually a scientific basis to these benefits.
One huge benefit is that the act of giving can reduce stress.
By helping to reach out and do something that gets you away from the stresses of your own circumstances, you are able to focus on more positive and uplifting activities. By doing small things like having a clear out and donating unwanted items to a local charity shop, you are able to reduce the stress that is brought on by unnecessary clutter.
While people often associate stress with the mental difficulties it creates, people forget that it can have a physical effect too. Chronic conditions can flare up when a person feels stress and it also increases the risk of strokes, raised blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues. Stress can also be something that triggers temptations such as comfort eating, increased alcohol consumption or smoking. The danger is that this process can become a vicious cycle, as stress will trigger your need to indulge and the guilt around the indulgence can create more stress.
So another benefit to giving, is that the act of giving could potentially help you live longer. External studies have suggested that people who did volunteer work for one or more organisations were over 40 per cent less likely to die over a five year period as opposed to those that did not do voluntary work (the study took into account factors such as age, exercise and other health factors, such as whether or not the subjects that were studied were smokers).
We’ve all heard the old motto that “it is better to give than to receive.” Strangely enough though, when you give to someone, you get a gift in your own body in the form of dopamine (a chemical that gives you a “feel good” hit) and oxytocin (a bonding chemical). In effect, the body is encouraging generosity with a natural warm feeling and if you keep doing more uplifting things, you will get more of that hit.
There are also benefits in terms of overall mental health. This is because instead of focusing on our own anxieties, we instead work harder on a life purpose. With community projects, there is the added benefit of social interaction and the opportunity to make new friends, something that will become especially important as people emerge from various stages of lockdown and seek to engage in a world among other people again.
Some people may be cynical about this, pointing out that charity ought to be selfless. However, if anything this shows that it is possible to make people’s lives better, while at the same time improving your own and in the long term this could be beneficial for everyone.