It's resolution time, which usually means many of us are thinking about more exercise and healthier eating. Being more generous doesn't often hit the top of the New Year's resolution lists. But research shows there may be good reasons to add it.
We help for the sake of others, but it turns out that generosity benefits us too – from lower blood pressure to a longer life span. Read on to find out more.
1. Lower blood pressure
Numerous studies show that being generous can bring a whole host of physical benefits, including lower blood pressure.
According to a study1 by the Department of Psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, adults who volunteered at least four hours a week were less likely to develop hypertension than those who volunteered less.
What's the connection? There are several possible reasons, including the reduction in stress. In fact, when researchers looked at the MRIs of people who gave to various charities, they found that generosity stimulates the reward center in the brain and releases endorphins.2 Endorphins can help combat stress, which can help prevent many illnesses.
2. Boost your mood
Along with physical benefits, generosity can go a long way in boosting our mood.
Think about the last time you helped someone. Maybe you spent a day helping to build affordable housing for a family in need. Or you spent an hour making sandwiches for elders. Chances are, when you were done you felt pretty good.
Research shows that when we give to others, it can make us happier. Generosity can activate an area in our brains that is linked to contentment and the reward cycle – the feeling of satisfaction we get from doing something we like.3
3. Stay connected
Generosity can also keep us in touch with the outside world.
Today, social isolation is a growing problem. The New York Times pointed out recently that since the 1980s, the percentage of lonely American adults has grown from 20% to 40%.4 Becoming involved with charities and volunteering in your community can help protect from social isolation.
The more involved we become, the more people we meet and friends we make. Generosity can lead to increased social opportunities resulting in more relationships and a larger support network. And these strong social connections may reduce the risk of negative health.
4. Live longer
Put all of these benefits of generosity together and we'll not only improve our quality of life but will live longer. That's what researchers from the University of Buffalo found: Unselfishness and giving are both linked to a lower risk of early death.5 The research suggests that if we're more physically and mentally fit, and have a strong social network, we may reduce the risk of physical limitations, dementia and other ailments.
How will you live generously in 2018?
Make generosity part of your New Year's resolution. Thrivent can help you get started. Discover programs like Thrivent Builds, Thrivent Action Teams and Thrivent Choice® today.
Learn more about Thrivent and what makes us different.
1 Cohen, S. and Sneed, RS. PubMed.gov. "A Prospective Study of Volunteerism and Hypertension Risk in Older Adults." June 28, 2013. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23795768 (Nov. 25, 2017).
2 Johnson, Lorie. CDN News. "Stress-Free: Heal Yourself with Generosity." November 24, 2015. http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2014/june/stress-free-heal-yourself-with-generosity (Nov. 25, 2017).
3 Cohut, Maria. Medical News Today. "Generosity Makes You Happier." July 16, 2017. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318406.php (Nov. 25, 2017).
4 Khuyllar, Dhruv. The New York Times. "How Social Isolation Is Killing Us." December 22, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/22/upshot/how-social-isolation-is-killing-us.html (Nov. 25, 2017).
5 Chan, Amanda L. HuffPost. "7 Science-Backed Reasons Why Generosity Is Good For Your Health." December 1, 2013. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/01/generosity-health_n_4323727.html (Nov. 25, 2017).