General News — 17 October 2012

Charities often benefit significantly from the generosity of donors and volunteers. But the person providing the philanthropy also takes away something from the experience, and there actually may be measurable emotional advantages to being charitable.

Helping others not only makes a person feel good, but it may also increase physical and emotional well-being.

Several studies have indicated that being generous has profound effects on how a person thinks and feels.

One such study from researchers at Cornell University uncovered that volunteering increases one’s energy, sense of mastery over life and self-esteem. It also promotes feelings of positivity, which may strengthen and enhance the immune system.

In 2008, Dr. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, advocated for giving gifts and being generous — even in tough financial times.

“When you give a gift it makes you feel generous, it makes you feel in control, it’s good for your self-esteem, and it’s good for the relationship,” says Langer.

According to psychologist Robert Ornstein and physician David Sobel, authors of “Healthy Pleasures,” they talk about a “helper’s high.”

This is a sense of euphoria that volunteers experience when helping others. It can be described as a sense of vitality and a warm glow. It has been compared to a runner’s high and may be attributed to a release of endorphins.

Various studies have found that donors and volunteers gain the most from a charitable encounter.

Here are a few more health benefits that may result from being altruistic:

* an activation of emotions that are key to good health,

* lower stress levels,

* longer periods of calm after the generous act,

* improved mood, and

* a potentially longer life span.

There are many ways to give back and experience these physical and psychological benefits, including:

* sharing experiences at a school,

* volunteering at a hospital,

* volunteering at a national or local park,

* donating unused items, like clothes or cars,

* reading to children at a library,

* helping to care for animals at shelters,

* volunteering at a hospice and comforting those at the end of their lives,

* donating supplies to a new teacher and

* becoming a companion to a senior citizen.

As first appeared in Shoreline Beacon, 16 October 2012


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