We all know that lifestyle changes such as healthy eating, exercising, drinking more water and getting enough sleep can help improve our overall health. However, did you know there’s something else you can do for your own well-being?
Studies have shown that people who give back to others are happier overall. They even enjoy some extra physical health benefits too.
With the holidays being a time many people pay it forward, learn how helping others, volunteering and giving to charity can also help make you a healthier person.
Prevent heart disease and other physical health issues
If you want to lower your risk for heart disease and other health problems, helping others may be a piece of the puzzle. Those who volunteer tend to keep excess weight at bay and generally have a lower body mass index (BMI). Studies have also shown that middle-aged adults who volunteer tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and healthier blood sugar numbers.
Studies have also shown that people who give more tend to live longer. Volunteering and participating in activities that better your community are often associated with good health and a long life.
This may be one of the least-expected health benefits of giving. Those who give back to others regularly are less likely to develop an addiction to drugs and alcohol.
Charitable giving can also help people who are recovering from addiction. For example, members of Alcoholic Anonymous who choose to help other alcoholics with their own recovery are nearly twice as likely to stay sober in the future.
Remember the last time you did something nice for someone or donated your time to someone in need? The result was a little boost of happiness, right?
Studies have shown that this is the norm for most people. When you help someone, whether it’s an errand for a friend or a stranger who needs food, it lights up the part of your brain that enjoys pleasure. It’s the same part that lights up when you eat something you really like. Not only does it make you happier, but it can improve your self-esteem and your overall satisfaction with your life.
Stress can harm your health if you don’t get it under control. It can cause problems with everything from your heart to your teeth to your immune system.
With most of use experiencing prolonged periods of stress during COVID-19 this year, stress relief is critical. If you’re looking for a way to deal with stress, try giving back to others. Studies have shown that people who don’t want to help others by donating time and money are more stressed out than those who do.
Improve mental health
Finally, helping others, volunteering and giving to charity are all good for your mental health. This is especially important news for people who live with anxiety and depression.
When you make a difference in someone else’s life, you’re less likely to dwell on what’s not going right in yours. In other words, giving helps improve your own self-image. Studies have even shown that giving to others can help with the grieving process. Those who help others after the loss of a loved one are less likely to become depressed than those who don’t.
Learn more about our mission programs at Mercy Health as well as ways we give back to our communities.