Have you thought about why you feel so much better when you are serving someone else? Have you ever felt the warm “fuzzy’s” after blessing someone with a favor or kind deed? Have you found yourself the recipient of someone else’s gift of serving? What is it that they have? Why do they seem happier and/or healthier? It has been studied and proven that when we are serving others, giving, caring, doing for another…not only is the recipient blessed but we feel better too!
Do you realize it’s not just the way we think that is impacted by serving, it’s physical and emotional too! Several studies have found that not only does serving others cause mood improvements but it has health benefits as well. Giving helps you overcome stress – your body releases a hormone called oxytocin, which helps you buffer stress while increasing social trust and tranquility – the “compassion hormone” as it has been labeled helps limit exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, says Stephanie Brown from Stony Brook University, New York. Stacey Curnow, creator of Midwife for Your Life, says about experiencing a release of oxytocin, “It’s a self-perpetuating cycle! After a positive exchange, more oxytocin is released and we are even more likely to reach out and interact with others in a cooperative and nurturing manner.”
Other studies have found that those who serve live longer. A study by Elizabeth Lightfoot, PhD at the University Of Minnesota School Of Social work, showed that seniors who gave 100 hours or more annually lived 22 percent longer than seniors who did not serve others. And one of the beautiful findings is that it’s not just seniors or adults, but young children, even toddlers. A study by Aknin, Hamlin and Dunn: Giving Leads to Happiness in Young Children, found that given a choice toddlers are happier when they share with others, even if it is at a cost to themselves. WOW!!
Additional health benefits are pain relief, lower blood pressure, reduced anxiety and discomfort. If you want to manage your pain serve others dealing with the same or similar pain. A study done by Paul Arnstein, PhD, specialist in pain relief at Massachusetts General Hospital found when people suffering with chronic pain helped others with the same ailment, they reported feeling less discomfort themselves and recognized the positive effect they had on others in the same situation. Which then gave them a greater sense of purpose. I know this is true from personal experience in the MS world. A group of 20 and sometimes more of us who battle MS work out together at a gym. We all come with differing levels of physical ability, we raise the level of JOY in the room simply by cheering each other on and/or challenging each other to try new things. It’s amazing and very heartwarming! Each of us are improving our health by increasing our stamina, challenging our bodies to do more AND having fun being supported by each other. We have a group of dedicated volunteers that come weekly to record our progress, encourage and challenge us. Ask any of those volunteers why they serve – you get an answer of how they are inspired and motivated by those they are serving.
Another study in the journal of Psychology and Aging found adults over the age of 50 who reported volunteering at least 200 hours in the past year were 40 percent less likely than nonvolunteers to have developed hypertension four years later! Researchers believe that the stress-reducing effects of being both active and altruistic helped the volunteer’s lower blood pressure. And we find from another source that, raising our oxytocin hormone level limits our exposure to the stress hormone cortisol, from Stephanie Brown, PhD Stony Brook University, New York.
What do we do with all of this? How can we impact our health and mood? I firmly believe we look for opportunities to SERVE! To help us remember, give a few more reasons and a couple of simple suggestions, let’s look at serving this way.
S – E – R – V – E
S – Simply Smile at others. Anyone can do it and it’s contagious! Go ahead, give it a try next time you are at the grocery store, in your neighborhood or at church. Simply Smile and see what happens. Serving can be THAT easy!
E – Excite others and invite them to serve with you. If you are getting all the health benefits of lower blood pressure, higher levels of the “compassion hormone” and living longer….invite others to experience the same with you!
R – Renew your HEALTH by serving – Have a chronic issue? Find a group or organization that serves others like you and SERVE them. It could be as easy as a phone call checking in with them, leading a group, doing a visit, running errands….but whatever you do for others, you will be surprised how that makes YOU feel healthier – like mentioned earlier….you can step out of your pain, anxiety or mild depression by serving others living with the same issue.
V – Volunteer – Give of your time, talent or resources and just wait to see the results! If it’s a cause you believe in, you will reap the benefits we’ve listed earlier and others as well! If you don’t believe results from research, then do your own! Take time to find an organization, ask at your church, research on-line or stop by a Community Center and see what they need. Can you fit that need? Give it a little time and if you are volunteering out of caring – NOT obligation – you will reap the health benefits listed and help others!!
E – Even financial contributions make us feel better. Remember after 911, the tsunami in Japan, or any big catastrophe that has a way to contribute financially– even anonymously? People JUMPED at the chance, the mood in the country was of charity. I would bet your oxytocin hormone level would elevate! A study done at the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School found that employees who spent a greater portion of bonuses they had received on others or made charitable donations with it reported greater happiness than those who spent more of the bonus on themselves. Give it a try!
If you are thinking that you would like to find your niche or to discover what it is you are meant to do, I would enjoy working with you! You can simply go to the Speak To Me page and contact me. We can together help you clarify your values, discover your strengths/gifts and guide you on the road to pursuing your purpose!
I would LOVE to hear your serving stories and how it not only benefited those you served, but how your health has improved. Please share your story in the comments section.
Until next time, be blessed and BE a blessing!