We know that giving of our time and financial resources benefits the recipients. Our acts of charity, generosity and kindness can make tangible, positive differences in the lives of others. Plus, giving actually feels good. Helping others gives many of us that “warm glow.” But did you know there may be a biological basis for the increase in happiness and health that comes from generous behavior?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation were involved in a study that showed the brain’s pleasure centers became activated when people donated money to charity. Researchers took advantage of a brain imaging technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which shows when specific regions of the brain are activated. The higher brain response to voluntary giving might correspond to the “warm glow” people reportedly experience when they’ve donated money to a good cause.
In addition to increasing your feeling of gratification, studies have found other mental health benefits including lowered levels of stress and anxiety. Giving and volunteering can have physical benefits as well. Some studies have shown a decrease in blood pressure and a strengthening of the immune system when we give of ourselves. And this is not simply a case of healthier people being more generous. The health benefits are clear.
Remember though, it’s not all about money nor the amount. Donating your time and energy counts just as much. It could be something as simple as giving up your seat on the bus.
Mercy Health would like to take this opportunity to encourage you to live a healthy life by thinking about the ways you might give of yourself to better the circumstances of individuals or your community. This is your chance to not only improve the lives of others, but to improve your own health, sense of well-being and happiness as well. Everybody wins.