The Health Rewards of Volunteering
People who donate their time and efforts to charitable endeavors usually feel gratified, sometimes even to the point that they feel as if they are getting back more than they give. There are other mental benefits associated with volunteerism as well. For instance, many helpers report feeling more self-confident and socially connected to others who share their interests and values. All of this can help counteract feelings of loneliness, isolation, and even depression.
While the mental benefits of giving are relatively easy to see and understand, there is evidence to suggest that the positive effects may extend even further. Consider the results of some recent studies, which indicate that people who help others are being rewarded in terms of better physical health. For instance, one particularly noteworthy trend among volunteers is that they tend to have lower blood pressure than their non-volunteering counterparts. This discovery is significant because high blood pressure is commonly considered a bellwether of poor health, and it can potentially lead to serious consequences like heart attacks and strokes.
The exact role that altruism plays in influencing blood pressure levels (if any) remains unclear. Some theories suggest that people who take care of others simply tend to take care of themselves as well in terms of exercising, eating right, getting adequate rest, and having regular medical checkups. Another possible reason is that some types of volunteer work involve physical activity, and thus help people to become more active than they would otherwise be.
Beyond these possible explanations, though, there are other indications of health benefits associated with serving others. Through volunteering, it may be possible to achieve feelings of appreciation and self-worth. This, in turn, can have a calming effect that reduces anxiety, and lower stress levels are directly linked to enhanced health and wellness. Finally, some volunteer activities, such as tutoring, provide a form of mental stimulation that can improve both cognitive skills and memory, which may help ward off conditions like Alzheimer’s down the road.
While these findings remain largely inconclusive, many experts agree that the key to achieving better health through volunteering is to do so for the right reason; that is, to truly make a difference in someone’s life, rather than to simply better your own.
If you’d like more information about this or any other health-related topic, you can talk with the doctors at South Tampa Immediate Care. Appointments are never required at our walk-in clinic in Tampa, FL.