Have you ever felt a rush after doing a good deed? Ever noticed you were more relaxed after a day of volunteering? Did you ever feel motivated to do good after thinking about the last time you helped someone? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, there’s a good explanation for why – it’s called science.
International Good Deeds Day is almost upon us and it’s time to start rallying your friends, family, coworkers, and peers to join this global movement of doing good on April 10, 2016. If your fellow good doers are still in need of some convincing, here are seven scientific facts about the benefits of doing good to share with them.
1. DOING GOOD DECREASES STRESS
According to a 2013 study examining the relationship between volunteering and hypertension, giving back can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Researchers found that adults over 50 who volunteered about four hours a week were 40 percent less likely than non-volunteers to have developed hypertension four years later.
Additionally, being generous can have the same effect, according to a 2010 study, which found that the less money people gave away, the higher their cortisol levels.
2. DOING GOOD INCREASES LIFE-EXPECTANCY
Yes, it’s true. Researchers from the University of Buffalo found a link between giving, unselfishness and a lower risk of early death. The findings show that subjects who provided tangible assistance to friends or family members (running errands, helping with child care, etc.), reported less stressful events and, consequently, had reduced mortality. In other words, “helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.”
3. DOING GOOD MAKES US FEEL BETTER
Ever felt a sort of “rush” after performing a good deed? That sensation is known as ‘helper’s high’ and is produced when your brain releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals of the brain. When you do something good for someone else, your brain’s pleasure centers light up, releasing endorphin and producing this high. Not to mention, doing good has also been known to generate feelings of satisfaction and gratitude.
4. DOING GOOD MAKES US HAPPIER AT WORK
According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, altruists in the office are more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to quit their jobs. The researchers also found that individuals in their mid-30s who rated helping others in their work as important, reported they were happier with their life when surveyed 30 years later.
Overall, the study came to an important conclusion about office altruism: those who help others are happier at work than those who don’t prioritize helping others.
5. DOING GOOD PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH
The results are in! After an extensive review of 40 studies on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness, the BMC Public Health journal has concluded that volunteering is also good for mental health. The review found that – along with improved well-being and life satisfaction – volunteering is also linked to decreased depression.
6. DOING GOOD LEADS TO HAPPINESS
“People who engage in kind acts become happier over time.” It’s that simple, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Lyubomirsky, who has studied happiness for over 20 years, found that performing positive acts once a week led to the most happiness.
In addition, Researcher Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved.
7. DOING GOOD WILL MOTIVATE YOU TO DO GOOD AGAIN
A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that thinking about times you’ve helped others will make you want to help others again. The research found that reflecting on your past good deeds makes you feel selfless and want to help more, as compared to reflecting on the times others have helped you. In other words, thinking about what you’ve given others – and not only what you’ve received – will motivate you to do good again and again.