How Showing You Care Can Keep You Well

one person giving another a hand upWe know our emotions have an effect on our overall wellness. Studies have shown that high levels of stress or feelings of satisfaction correspond with health and fitness status.

But you might be surprised to learn how expressions of love, care and concern, can be directly linked with our bodies’ physical reactions. It seems we get a lot from giving.

Following are some research-based health and wellness rewards that come from giving from your time, thought or pocketbook, to benefit others.

Combat Stress with Generosity

Some stress is natural, and actually is good for most bodies. But too many feelings of stress can trigger the human stress hormone cortisol to be released. We don’t want an excess of cortisol in our systems, as it is stored in fat cells. Emotional responses help keep levels in check. And that’s a boon to your wellness.

One study reported in Scientific American looked at the body’s responses to the act of giving away money versus keeping more money for yourself. It linked the internal shame associated with stinginess to raised cortisol levels: the more people in the experiment kept for themselves, the higher their cortisol levels were.

Be Happier on a Team

University of Pennsylvania researchers used a strategic game with multiple players to test the effects of cooperation over selfishness. They found that working together led to more success than dominant or self-promoting behavior. In a group setting, generosity pays off and can lead to more satisfaction with the results.

In a study done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the power of altruism (voluntary selfless acts) was shown to improve well-being at work via the simple act of helping others on the job. The findings led researchers to the conclusion that helping others is part of a healthy psychological reward system. It also makes team members more committed, and less likely to quit.

Give More to Live Longer

A link between giving and having a lower risk of early death was uncovered by University of Buffalo researchers, who found that helping others with simple chores like running errands or babysitting corresponded with a lower risk of mortality. Volunteering for organizations helps, too: it’s been shown that elderly subjects volunteering for a few hours per week reduced their risk of mortality by over 40%, and could extend life up to five years.

In fact, just thinking about being more generous boosts immunity. Harvard students in one study watched a film about Mother Teresa tending to orphans, and the protective antibodies in their saliva shot up. Also, their antibody levels stayed elevated for an hour afterward, when they contemplated times they were loved by, or were loving to, others.

As health researcher Stephen G. Post states, “The impact of giving is just as significant as not smoking and avoiding obesity.”

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>