Be generous: It's a simple way to stay healthier
If there’s a magic pill for happiness and longevity, we may have found it.
Countless studies have found that generosity, both volunteering and charitable donations, benefits young and old physically and psychologically.
The benefits of giving are significant, according to those studies: lower blood pressure, lower risk of dementia, less anxiety and depression, reduced cardiovascular risk and overall greater happiness.
“Volunteering moves people into the present and distracts the mind from the stresses and problems of the self,” said Stephen G. Post, founding director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York. “Many studies show that one of the best ways to deal with the hardships in life is not to just center on yourself but to take the opportunity to engage in simple acts of kindness.”
A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology by Sara Konrath and a team at the University of Michigan found that older adult volunteers had a lower risk of dying in a four-year period than non-volunteers, as long as they volunteered for altruistic versus self-oriented reasons.
“In order to gain a personal benefit from volunteering, you have to focus on how your giving helps other people,” said Konrath, now director of the Interdisciplinary Program for Empathy and Altruism Research and assistant professor at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. “We have the ability to shift our focus, and many of us do have an other-oriented reason for giving. If we can just focus on that aspect rather than what we can get out of it, chances are it will be better for our own health, too.”
Read the full article "Be generous: It's a simple way to stay healthier" at the Detroit Free Press.