Six Ways Giving to Charity Is Good for Your Health

Most people would like to take better care of their health in hopes that doing so might enable them to live a longer life at a higher quality. But spending more time at the gym and eating more organic and local produce can seem like a stretch for some. Why must living a healthier lifestyle require most people to undergo such a significant adjustment to their day-to-day way of being?

Well, it turns out you can give your health a positive kick in the pants — and help make the world a better place — just by donating to charity. Whether you volunteer your time, or donate money, giving to charity really will improve your health. Whether you’d like to live longer or experience less stress, here are six ways you can feel better — and actually be better — by becoming more charitable.

Less Stress

When you experience stress, whether it’s because you’re behind at work, about to break up with a boyfriend or lost in the rain with a car that’s about to run out of gas, your body responds with a bevy of reactions. After all, stress is a normal part of life, and your physical, mental and emotional responses help you deal with it. Unfortunately, stress for many Americans occurs on a chronic level from which they experience little relief.

Headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, chest pains and other symptoms can develop and eventually lead to worse symptoms and even disease. If you’re someone who has more stress and stress symptoms than you wish you had, it may be time to volunteer or donate money to a charitable organization, which has been proven to lower blood pressure and help reduce stress.

A Stronger Immune System

Not only does giving to charity provide a boost for your immune system, but just thinking about giving to charity can increase your ability to ward off bacteria and disease. A Harvard psychologist measured the antibodies in his students’ saliva before and after they watched a film about Mother Teresa. He also measured the number of antibodies present when his students contemplated times when they had been helped by someone or had helped someone.

The results were the same: Thinking about doing good, watching someone else do good and contemplating times when someone was good to you all result in an immune system boost. So, the odds are good that the more you give, the more you’ll be thinking about it, which will result in even more antibodies clamoring to protect you.

Reduced Risk of Heart Attack

Over 700,000 people suffer heart attacks each year in the United States, and many of these will go on to die from complications related to the heart disease that caused the heart attack in the first place. Heart disease can be avoided by eating a healthy diet, engaging in regular physical activity and making other lifestyle changes, but because so few people are willing to make those changes, it’s still the number one killer in America. If your heart isn’t as healthy as you’d like it to be and you’re not about to step on a treadmill anytime soon, consider giving to charity. Charitable giving has been associated with a reduced risk for heart attack, and if you give by donating blood, you get even more anti-heart attack help.

Pain Reduction

Volunteering, according to The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research not only benefits those who are being served; if you suffer from chronic pain, it can help reduce the intensity of that pain. Studies show that volunteer work reduces pain intensity in people who suffer from chronic pain, and it doesn’t take a huge time commitment. With just two hours a week, people with chronic pain can see a noticeable difference in their experience.

A Longer Life

People who volunteer and give of their resources to others actually live a longer life than those who don’t — so long as the reason they volunteer is more to benefit others than it is to achieve that warm, fuzzy feeling that comes through giving. While volunteering and giving are both known to benefit a person’s health overall, research points to why the giving happens as bearing a significant weight as well. The more the efforts of giving are undertaken on behalf of others, the greater the health benefit and the longer the life.

Giving to charity isn’t just something that promotes the greater good. It’s something that will improve your health and greater good, too. Whether you give of your time or your money, give so you can experience less stress, less pain and a live a longer, healthier life.

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