Giving back has an effect on your body. Studies show that when people donated to charity, the mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, was triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts — something psychologists call “helper’s high.”
Heard enough from your inner critic? Consider donating some of your time to a cause you’re passionate about. People who volunteer have been found to have higher self-esteem and overall well-being. Experts explain that as feelings of social connectedness increase, so does your self-esteem. The benefits of volunteering also depend on your consistency. So, the more regularly you volunteer, the more confidence you’ll be able to cultivate.
Being a force for good in a friend’s life can help build a lasting bond. When you help others, you give off positive vibes, which can rub off on your peers and improve your friendships, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health. Both parties will contribute to maintaining a mutually beneficial dynamic.
Having a positive impact on someone else could help you change your own outlook and attitude. Experts say that performing acts of kindness boosts your mood and ultimately makes you more optimistic and positive.
Helping someone out can leave you feeling rewarded and fulfilled. People who participate in volunteer work feel more empowered than those who do not. According to a survey by the United Health Group, 96 percent of people who volunteered over the last 12 months said volunteering enriches their sense of purpose.
Whether with a large group of people in a volunteer organization, or just between two friends exchanging words of advice, helping people creates a feeling of community. “Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at a drop-in center can help reduce loneliness and isolation,” according to the Mental Health Foundation.
If you have a lot that’s wearing you down, giving back could help clear your head. In a study by United Health Group, 78 percent of people who volunteered over a 12-month period said they felt that their charitable activities lowered their stress. They were also more calm and peaceful than people who didn’t participate in volunteer work.
Helping others gives you perspective on your own situation, and teaches you to be appreciative of what you have. The Global One Foundation describes volunteering as a way to “promote a deeper sense of gratitude as we recognize more of what is already a blessing/gift/positive in our life.”
Helping others can teach you to help yourself. If you’ve been through a tough experience or just have a case of the blues, the “activism cure” is a great way get back to feeling like yourself, according to research from the University of Texas. “Volunteer work improves access to social and psychological resources, which are known to counter negative moods,” the study read.
Kindness is contagious, according to a study by researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, and University of Cambridge and University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom. “When we see someone else help another person it gives us a good feeling,” the study states, “Which in turn causes us to go out and do something altruistic ourselves.”