Did you know that by helping others you help yourself?
People who volunteer and lend a helping hand to others often experience a ‘helper’s high’ in the form of a physiological surge throughout the body stimulated by the brain’s release of neurotransmitters – endorphins, serotonin, dopamine and others. These are the body’s natural painkillers, tranquilizers AND feel-good stimulators which trigger both mental and physical benefits.
A helper’s high is similar to a ‘runner’s high’ – feelings of energy, euphoria and optimism! Those of us who don’t run often feel the equivalent in what we call ‘natural highs’ stimulated by such things as the beauty of nature, the majesty of music and the sense of accomplishment.
A helper’s high can create a positive and energizing outlook on life. Numerous studies have shown that people who donate their time and efforts by volunteering to help others receive numerous mental health benefits themselves. A Cornell University study found that volunteer work increases a person’s self-esteem and sense of mastery over life. A study undertaken by the University of Texas found that volunteering very quickly lowered depression in volunteers over the age of 65, and over time lowered depression in all age groups.
An Ontario study determined that volunteer work reduces social isolation and anxiety, and volunteers feel more socially connected and able to combat feelings of loneliness and depression.
Helping others was also found to create a general feeling of calm and well-being, stabilize moods and increase the ability to manage stress.
And a growing body of studies is showing that volunteer work also has positive effects which go beyond mental health. Results determined that people who give of their time to help others are also rewarded with better physical health. The Ontario study also revealed that helping others reduces blood pressure in volunteers. The endorphines released by positive emotions created by helping others help relax the heart – natural blood pressure pills.!
Researchers in a Michigan study also showed that individuals with a history of heart conditions experienced a reduction in blood pressure, and also improved cholesterol readings when tested after volunteering. Another Michigan study found that men who did volunteer work had increased levels of physical activity and lower mortality rates – two and one half times lower than those who did not volunteer!
Many other studies show the same results – helping others works wonders for our own health.
Get High! Be A Helper! Hope to see you as a volunteer at Cedarbrae Community Centre!