While volunteering is good for those in need, the giver cashes in big on generosity, too. Studies show the benefits of generosity and volunteering include a heightened sense of well-being, increased self-worth, and improved emotional and physical health.
How generosity makes you happier
Generosity and volunteering produce hormones that relieve stress, promote happiness, cause a natural high (endorphins), and promote bonding and tranquility.
Being generous makes us feel better about ourselves. It builds confidence, and encourages us to focus toward the world rather than ourselves.
When we improve someone else’s life, empowerment grows and we are better able to deal with life’s hardships.
Volunteering can help you feel better
Generosity and volunteering also lower mortality rates, reduce cardiovascular risk, decrease anxiety and depression, and improve sleep.
In fact, one study showed adults who volunteered at least four hours a week for one year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to non-volunteers.
Another study of teens found those who spent an hour a week helping children in after-school programs had lower levels of cholesterol and inflammation than their non-volunteering peers.
Generosity must be genuine to benefit health
Don’t volunteer or be generous simply in order to improve your health or solely out of obligation.
If you want to enjoy the health benefits of generosity and volunteering, it must be genuine. Make sure you’re focused on helping others and not just looking good.
A 2012 study found that older volunteers had a lower risk of dying in a four-year period than non-volunteers, as long as their volunteerism was for altruistic and not self-oriented reasons.
Tips for volunteering to improve your health
- Offer to do something your enjoy.
- Help with a cause you’re passionate about.
- Be realistic about your schedule so you don’t stress out.
- Volunteer with others so it’s socially beneficial.
- Don’t give up if your first attempt is a bad match.
Receive generosity with grace so others can benefit as well
Remember, generosity and volunteering are good for everyone. Others may have chronic health conditions they are working to manage, and allowing them to help you will help them as well.
If someone is generous to you, don’t brush it off or feel undeserving — receive their kindness with sincerity and grace. This will bring you closer to the person and allow them reap the benefits of giving as well.