Think back to the last time you decided to do a random act of kindness. One where you simply gave just to give – not with the intention to receive anything in return…

How did that make you feel? Chances are you found yourself feeling as if it were YOU who was the lucky recipient of a precious gift, and that you saw yourself floating on Cloud 9 until the ‘giving high’ wore off.

There’s something so gratifying about selflessly giving. Many times, the person who did the giving walks out with more than they gave. Unbeknownst to you, there are many health benefits of doing volunteer work and these are just a few!

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Giving To Get Healthy

It’s no surprise that the act of giving feels wonderful, but did you know that studies have shown that volunteering makes people feel more socially connected, which can thwart depression and loneliness?

Aside from mental health, there are many physical benefits that are being backed by research and science that deserve attention as well…

A recent study published in ‘Psychology and Aging’ from research done at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that “adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers”. High blood pressure contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death, so it’s an important correlation to consider.

It’s up for debate wether or not ‘volunteering’ was directly responsible for this phenomenon, but after reflecting on how amazing selfless giving feels, wouldn’t you agree that there could be a very strong possibility that this is the truth?

People who volunteer may be more likely to partake in other healthy habits, like eating a healthy diet or exercise, that lower blood pressure. But the results are in line with other findings on the topic.

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Benefits of Volunteer Work

How could it be possible that volunteering contributes to lowered blood pressure? People who volunteer may be more physically active than those who don’t volunteer leading to better health and wellbeing.

So, what does this mean? How many hours of volunteering exactly equate to a better quality of life and improved health? Researchers involved with the Carnegie Mellon University study are hypothesizing that 200 hours per year could contribute to lowered blood pressure. Some other studies have said that as little as 100 hours a year could be the magic number.

Another question to ask is which types of volunteer activities improve health the most? There are speculations that mentally stimulating activities – such as teaching or reading – may assist in maintaining memory and thinking skills, while physical activities may be important for improved cardiovascular health. The verdict may still be out on whether this evidence is conclusive, but growing bodies of research suggest that health and happiness may be closely related to volunteer work and selfless giving.

When In Doubt… Give.

A key finding was that, to get the most health benefits from volunteering, you have to do it for the right reasons.

A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others without expecting anything in return – not doing it to only benefit themselves or to receive something back.

We may not know the purpose of life, but we do know that a life of contribution may be the key to health and longevity. That performing acts of kindness, being generous, and volunteering can contribute positively to a healthier mental and physical quality of life.

The Meaning of Life?

Let’s imagine for a moment that at the end of life, it’s not about the riches we attained, the car we drove, the brand of clothes we wore, our job title, or how much stuff we had. Imagine if at the end of life it was about how many lives you touched, how many people you positively impacted, how generous you were, how willing you were to help people… How would this finding change the way you live your life today if this were the case?

Get up. Help people. Volunteer. Change a life. Change many!

Give without expecting anything in return. You’ll be gifted back with more than you gave. Even if volunteering isn’t the ‘key’ to living a healthy life, it feels pretty darn good to be a nice person, and that alone should be a reason to get up and do something starting today. Start with the person standing next to you.

So, go. You are more. Become, become, become!

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