5 Surprising Ways Giving Back Can Improve Mental Health

women volunteering

Doing a good deed can go a long way. No, not because of karma or because you are doing someone a favor and therefore they now owe you a favor. Doing good can literally do your body good too. Studies have shown that giving back has a positive impact on your mental health. Whether you are looking for ways that will make you calmer or you are battling depression, a charity, or enrolling in a sponsor a child program might not be the cure but it might make things a little easier. Here are some surprising ways giving back can improve not only your mental health but your physical health too.

Getting A Helper’s High

Doing “random acts of kindness” for people you may or may not encounter can do wonders to improve your mood more than receiving those same acts of kindness, according to a 2016 University of the South study. The reason behind this is doing something like this encourages your body to release dopamine. This is where the term “helper’s high” comes from.

Improving Your Life Satisfaction

Giving back also helps you feel better about your life situation, no matter which one you are in. Part of this is because rerouting your attention to something other than yourself can sometimes give you a different perspective and new insight on your life. Doing this often can help reduce the negative outlook that you may have on life or your life situation. A report from the Woman’s Philanthropy Institute found that people are just happier when they give back. The more you give, the happier you will be.

Decreasing Depressive Symptoms

This is possible, and it happens over time, but giving back has also been shown to decrease depressive symptoms. An Oxford study found that over a 20-year-period, environmental volunteers reported having fewer depressive symptoms after volunteering than those who did not. Generosity is good for your mental health. It is not a cure for depression, but it is something that can make it more difficult to last as long, or hurt as much.

Lowering Your Blood Pressure

In a study published in 2006 by the International Journal of Psychophysiology, people who “gave social support to others” more than likely had a lower blood pressure reading than those who did not. It has been shown that giving back not only improves your mental health but your physical health. Giving back can lower your blood pressure.

Elongating Your Life

Older people who volunteered regularly “were at a lower risk for mortality four years later” according to a 2012 study published in Health Psychology. People who gave back intentionally, with the sole purpose of receiving personal benefits did not have a lower risk for mortality in a few years. The key is to give back simply because you want to.

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