After donating 419 bottles of hand sanitizer, 11,257 units of soap and 10,125 units of limited edition Hero Hands Body Butter, that we created for healthcare workers and distributed across 14 major hospitals in Alberta, we had a case of the warm and fuzzies. The kind of good feeling we get when we donate $1 from our monthly Community Bar to Canadian non-profits. So, all this community action has us thinking: What about giving back makes you feel all good inside?
The reward pathway of your brain — the same one that lights up for pleasurable things like that slice of devil’s food cake — is run by the mesolimbic system. It’s where dopamine is released from. That’s the feel-good chemical that plays a large role in reward-motivated behaviour. Researchers have found that the mesolimbic system engages when donating in the same way as when you receive a gift.
Studies have found that people who help others live longer. In their book, Why Good things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, Ph.D. and journalist Jill Neimark write that acts of giving had reported health benefits in people with chronic illness. It’s possible that people who give social support to others have lower blood pressure. That’s one theory from a 2006 study. The researchers from that study also found those participants who tended to give social support also received more social support, had more self-efficacy and self-esteem, while reporting less depression and less stress. Not too shabby!
And loneliness isn’t the best for your health. In a world where we’re more and more disconnected from each other, giving your time can help fight social isolation and strengthen your sense of community. The same study that spoke to blood pressure notes that social networks lead to longevity, fewer physical illness symptoms and, of course, have lower blood pressure.
Gratitude has all sorts of benefits. But did you know that you can get those benefits from giving and receiving? So when you do something nice for someone, you get the same benefit as when you’re expressing gratitude. When you practice gratitude it can have profound effects on your health and happiness. At Rocky, every Monday we take one minute for “Attitude of Gratitude” where we list (in our heads) three or more things we’re grateful for. Try it! It’s a simple way to work gratitude into your everyday life.
Giving begets giving. Studies say that when you give to one person, it can inspire them to give to others. So when you help someone out, you’re also helping to create a web of generosity. That means you’re also helping spread all those amazing health benefits associated with giving. Isn’t that a wonderful thought?
Why about giving feels good for you?
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