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Last week during Thanksgiving we focused on what we’re grateful for. And with Giving Tuesday, we were reminded of the importance of turning your Thanksgiving gratitude into something tangible by giving back to others. But did you know that the act giving, whether through the form of volunteering one’s time or financial donations, actually benefits the giver just as much as the receiver? In fact, research has shown that the health benefits of giving may not only improve, but lengthen your life. How so? Let us explain!
(1) Increased self esteem and sense of purpose
Researchers have consistently found that giving or volunteering one’s time can benefit people of all ages by increasing self esteem and developing a greater sense of purpose, both of which contribute to overall satisfaction with one’s life.
(2) Lower risk of depression
One study conducted MRI scans on donor’s brains after they made a donation. They found that the mesolimbic system (responsible for feelings of reward and pleasure) was the part of the brain that was activated. This, paired with the increased self esteem and sense of purpose, could be why people who give back are less likely to experience depression.
Another study showed that even just the thought of giving can increase one’s happiness. Participants were given $100 and half were asked to think about how they would spend it on themselves. Meanwhile, the other half were asked to think about how they would spend the money on someone else. MRI scans showed that the people who thought about spending the money on someone else had more interaction between parts of the brain associated with happiness. Better yet, those happy feelings continued after the study was over.
(3) Improved physical health
There’s no denying that mental and emotional health impact overall physical health. So, it should come as no surprise that when you have greater self esteem, an increased sense of purpose, and a lower risk of depression that you will experience some physical benefits as well. Studies have shown that people who give back regularly have lower bad cholesterol, lower BMI, lower blood sugar and lower blood pressure, all of which contribute to a decreased risk in heart disease and stroke.
In short, giving is good! Not just for those on the receiving end, but also for the givers like you. Although Giving Tuesday has come and gone, that doesn’t mean that you still can’t do something meaningful today! At Oaklawn Hospital, the generosity of our supporters has allowed us to do things like build a state-of-the-art surgery center and help cover medical expenses for those who can’t afford it, amongst other things. If you feel inspired to help us continue to provide exceptional medical care to our patients, you can make a donation to Oaklawn by going to oaklawnhospital.org/donate.