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How Giving Back Can Improve Your Life

Updated By Staff Writer on March 18, 2021

We’ve all heard the adage “It is better to give than to receive.” Even after all of these years we’ve spent trying to stay on Santa’s “Good List,” many of us have largely forgotten to put the phrase into practice. It may be selfish of us, but we might have secretly thought (at least once) “What’s in it for me?” Often, we can’t find the time or resources to do things we need to do. Doing things to give back to the community or a worthy cause may ease our conscience, but they’re not exactly putting food on the table and keeping the lights on for us, right? Maybe not, but sincerely giving back can do other things for us, things we may really need help with. Below are five solid benefits that come from volunteering, donating, and helping out others without expecting a return.

It Increases Feelings of Happiness

Happiness can be pretty elusive, especially for those who suffer from mental health challenges. Life can be pretty rough from time to time, regardless of who you are or where you’re from. There’s an unerring constant, though: helping others makes us feel good, and it’s not just from a satisfied shoulder angel. Helping others tickles the reward center of our brain, causing it to release dopamine, which results in what’s known as the “helper’s high.” Like the fabled “runner’s high,” or the warm fuzzies we get after a delicious meal or a tender hug, our body lets us know that what we’ve done is a good thing, and gives us a genuine sense of joy to do it.

It Strengthens Social Bonds

If you’ve ever been lonely or wanted to make new friends, volunteering may be your answer. Giving back, by nature, can’t happen in a vacuum, so it’s never really a solo activity. You interact with other volunteers, with people in need, with organizers and administrators, and loads more. The more you volunteer, the more you connect, and the shared sense of purpose (combined with that “helper’s high”) creates lasting bonds between you and others.

It Provides Feelings of Empowerment

Life doesn’t always go our way, and there are a lot of things that we can’t control. Nevertheless, volunteering seems to have an empowering effect that helps mitigate feelings of hopelessness and impotence in the face of life’s challenges. Even for those less fortunate, volunteering to help someone else can make them feel capable and confident, and reduce the intimidation they feel from problems in their own lives. So if you want to feel more grounded in your day-to-day life, volunteer.

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It Improves Health

You benefit physically from volunteering, too. It has a calming effect on the body, just as it does on the mind, slowing heart rate, lowering stress levels, and decreasing blood pressure. In addition to heart-healthy benefits, people who volunteer actually tend to live longer. So if you’re none too eager to kick the bucket, you may need to start thinking about addressing the needs of others.

It Can Ease Chronic Pain

While we won’t go so far as to suggest that volunteering will cure you of what ails you (like so many snake oil salesmen in days long gone), it can have a mitigating effect on chronic pain. Perhaps it has something to do with the feel-good chemicals released in the brain, or maybe it’s just a temporary distraction from personal troubles, but lending a helping hand affects pain levels resulting from chronic conditions, and those volunteers who suffer from such a condition have reported feeling better afterward.

A Word of Caution

All this is not to say that all volunteering and giving back is created equal. Doing it wrong can rob it of its positive effects, or even leave you worse off than before. Being coerced into volunteering doesn’t have the same benefits as genuine charity and service. What’s more, a complete abandonment of your own needs tends to lead to burnout, which neither helps others nor does you any favors. So it seems, even with giving back, it’s best to keep all things in moderation. For more information about your potential, and what you have to offer the world around you, contact Independence University, and start your journey toward higher education today.