Updated: Jun 5
Sometimes, a cliché exists for good reason. For example, we often hear about the concept that by helping others, you help yourself.
Sure, it may sound like a corny Hallmark card. But what if I told you there is research to back it up? What if I proved to you that generosity can be an antidote to sadness?
Thankfully, there have been a ton of studies on this topic. The verdict is in. From “feel good” chemicals to the “helper’s high” to stress reduction and beyond, giving and helping are very good for you. Let’s break it down into a few categories.
Some of the Many Mood-Boosting Benefits of Generosity
Improved Physical Health
Regularly performing acts of kindness and generosity has been found to improve your physical health in a variety of ways. For example:
Lower risk of dementia
Reduced cholesterol levels
Better chronic pain management
Lower body mass index (BMI)
Reduced risk of high blood pressure
One particular study found participants who did volunteer work lowered their risk of hypertension by 40 percent. This is believed to be connected to the healthy social interactions involved. Translation: Improved physical health can directly result in improved mental health.
Stress Management and Longer Life-Expectancy
Generosity = lower stress. This may relate to the whole “do unto others” concept, huh? Good stress management, in turn, reduces mortality rates. When we allow stress to run rampant, it can lead to premature aging and many chronic illnesses. When we actively reduce stress, life feels more manageable, happier, healthy, and more positive.
When helping others, you may feel grateful for the opportunity to do the right thing. You may also feel gratitude for what you have. Of course, the person being supported will be filled with gratitude. This vibe is an important component of a happy and healthy life. It can lead you to be openly grateful in other aspects of your life. This can only serve to improve your overall mental outlook.
Acts of altruism often involve social interactions. New bonds can be formed. The intention of giving becomes contagious. Before long, you may find yourself in a community of helpers. There is nothing negative or sad about connecting with kind and kindred spirits. Your good mood will be proof of this.
In a study, 74 percent of those who fell into the “high-generosity” category reported feeling proud of who they are. This is compared to only 51 percent in the “lower-generosity” group.
Got Sadness? Get Generous
Here’s a big one. Doing good deeds triggers the release of chemicals in our bodies. These include endorphins, oxytocin, and dopamine. This influx of “feel-good” chemicals results in a “helper’s high.” We are flooded with feelings like:
A sense of being bonded with others
When MRIs are performed on people who have volunteered, given to charities, and so on, their acts of generosity create change. A neural pathway is stimulated, e.g. the reward center in the brain. This series of events can inspire you to continue being generous and thus, continue being in a good mood.
What If the Sadness Just Won’t Leave?
For some folks, there will be times when you need more than being generous to address your sadness. This is not a shortcoming. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Deep sadness requires professional attention. You may discover that your efforts (e.g. generosity) aren’t helping. This is the time to reach out and get on the receiving end of help. Committing to therapy is a powerful step toward managing sadness or perhaps, depression. Let’s connect for a safe and confidential consultation.