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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!
We are blessed to have undeveloped park land behind our home. This brings the opportunity for a LOT of wildlife in our backyard! Birds, deer, coyote, butterflies, squirrels, snakes, possum and one sighting of a mink to name a few! My hubby, Brian, has been feeding the birds for years with several types of feeders. We enjoy the visits from many types of birds throughout the seasons. We live in SE Wisconsin, it seems we can experience several seasons within a few days.
This Spring we have been blessed with new sightings and the return of old feathered friends. Today we have three pair of Cardinals – their song is beautiful and the flash of red as the males fly in and out of the big pine tree is amazing. Not sure if we have four or five couples of House Finches who travel with their mate everywhere – feeders, oranges on the table, grape jelly dish on the feeder pole, birdbath for a cool drink – together always, the male with his red head and the female with her brown stripes. We have been blessed to have two sets of Baltimore Orioles, who are brilliant orange with black and one Orchard Oriole, who is brick red with black, this season. They visit us at the feeders often flying from one to the other with their beaks full of jelly and nectar. The hummingbirds flit from our two feeders and this year we added a swing for their (our) enjoyment, they take a quick drink then fly to the top of our neighbors crab apple tree – apparently to be the top bird in the yard. Grosbeaks, Robins, Sparrows, Blackbirds, Nuthatches, Woodpeckers, Mourning Doves and others, fly in, eat, drink, and I think socialize! With the back door and windows open the sounds are calming, refreshing and mesmerizing. Some days I turn the rocking chair to face the backyard to relax and observe.
What I’ve noticed this year, different from years past, are several deviations from the norm in our wildlife friends. Whether by injury or design, we have some unique, special looking wildlife friends. The first to come and visit was our squirrel friend who lost his tail from an encounter with the large Cooper Hawk. We thoroughly enjoy his antics as he bounces in the yard doing all the normal squirrel things, but with a different twist and purpose in his movements. We noticed last week we have a female House Finch that lost an eye. She and her mate come to the feeders, birdbath and extra fruit treats regularly, they are now teaching their young ones how to feed themselves. A lovely sight of loyalty and parenting with a few adaptations to help her with her tasks. The third anomaly we noticed is a female Cardinal without any feathers on her head. She looks like she has a black leather hat on, she too just goes about the business of feeding and caring for herself, her mate and little one.
As I reflect on our wildlife friends, I think how does this apply to me? To US? Each of us are created uniquely, with gifts, personalities, preferences and appearances different from anyone else. We are created in the image of God Genesis 1:27. Some of us have lost sight of our beauty and our uniqueness. We carry scars, loss, and disappointments around with us, not seeing the beauty and opportunity to use our unique experiences to better our world and the people around us! Like the nature friends in our backyard it might take some adaptations or support from others for you to see your unique qualities. I encourage you to look at your scars, reflect on your challenges, remember and celebrate your experiences to see what you can learn. Ask yourself how you can use that awareness for the betterment of yourself, your family, all those around you and beyond! You have a purpose, you are gifted, a unique creation that can make a difference in the world! “Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.” Benjamin E. Mays
I found this to be true in my own life. In the Fall of 2007 I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis What sounded like a death sentence has become one of the best ways for me to connect with others. I changed the name Multiple Sclerosis to More Special, because I am! With a few adaptations, support from my family and friends I can see how MS is a unique blessing in my life. I make opportunities to hike, work, learn, discover, create & play daily, which I know encourages others. No matter your history or your present situation, you can find your purpose and bless others through your uniqueness!
Do you want to find out more about YOU and how you can make a difference? Swing by the Speak To Me page and complete the simple form then I will connect with you. Let’s see how we can work together to guide you in your new awareness, to clarify your unique gifts, set goals to find and put into action your purpose!