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Good news in time for giving season: Volunteer hours are great for your health, too


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Photo: Stocksy/Lumina

Everyone can use a helping hand at times, especially when crises or natural disasters take place. Aside from the social, human benefits that come with contributing to the recovery following severe, devastating events or traumas, it turns out that your volunteer efforts offer some personal perks, too. In fact, there are a number of ways that you can feel a healthy boomerang effect from your good deeds, The New York Times reports.

“Research suggests that community social connections are as important for resilience to disaster as physical material like disaster kits or medical supplies.” —Ichiro Kawachi, PhD

According to Ichiro Kawachi, PhD, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health, “Voluntarism is good for the health of people who receive social support, but also good for the health of people who offer their help.” Dr. Kawachi further explained that this may have to do with research that suggests “community social connections are as important for resilience to disaster as physical material like disaster kits or medical supplies.”

And that’s not where the kickback gifts from giving end. According to neuroscientist Richard Davidson, MD, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, “When we do things for ourselves, those experiences of positive emotions are more fleeting,” he says. “When we engage in acts of generosity, those experiences of positive emotion may be more enduring and outlast the specific episode in which we are engaged.”

Plus, studies have even linked volunteer work to lower blood pressure and a longer life span. So the next time you’re out doing good, keep in mind that you’re also doing something for yourself—think of it as self-care that’s anything but selfish.

To kick off the generosity, reach out to a friend struggling with depression using these four methods or send them a happy light to make fall and winter easier to weather