Why Giving Back is Good for Your Health
There’s an old saying you may be familiar with: It’s better to give than receive. Giving back is critical to consider in our role as parents – not just in the lessons we teach our children, but in how we nurture ourselves.
Being of service to others builds resilience. It heightens our capacity to get through the most challenging times. In short: By giving back we help others and ourselves.
Harvard School of Public Health professor Ichiro Kawachi told the New York Times that volunteering is, “good for the health of people who offer their help.” The article, “Why Doing Good Is Good for the Do-Gooder,” centers on the proven short and long-term positive impact the act of helping others has on volunteers. This concept has been widely supported by research across numerous institutions. And the history of our own communities also reinforces that those who serve benefit in many ways.
Read on to discover why and how it’s worth making and taking time to give back.
These uplifting and empowering results partially stem from temporarily putting aside your own troubles. By doing so, we gain a wider perspective, the kind that allows us to appreciate that most setbacks aren’t as big or unsolvable as they seem. We also discover more opportunities for engaging positively with the world around us.
People who contribute to the greater good tend to gain a sense of power. They recognize they have the ability to transform lives and make the world a better place. This knowledge can be life-altering because these individuals come to understand they matter. Their sense of self-worth skyrockets.
This is an extraordinary concept. Giving to others can counter low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness. And for these reasons, volunteering protects individuals from potentially going down dangerous and unhealthy paths. As an example, people who give back are less likely to drink or do drugs. This may be because they needn’t rely on an escape route when the contribution they are making to others makes them know they are valued.
Being positively engaged with the world strengthens our sense of meaning and purpose. Knowing that you matter, matters.
Giving back has also been proven to lower blood pressure. This is true for men and women of all backgrounds. It’s also the case for people of all ages, whether married or single, as well as individuals who work in an office or for those who don’t have a job at all. Even more, findings show that giving of yourself does more good than just decrease hypertension. It lowers stress and improves overall health.
Many people who give their time live longer than those who don’t. Doing so delays the onset of serious illness and extends how long bodies function normally. This is likely related to having a sense of continued purpose. Additionally, many individuals may live longer because they learn important information while lending assistance and support. As they are passing along ideas to benefit others, they learn lifestyle choices that might be good for them too. For example, individuals working with heart disease patients may be exposed to new exercise and nutrition habits. They might even consider how, they too, should better manage stress in their lives.
Perhaps the most surprising upside of contributing to the community is how it paves the way for individuals to accept help when they need it. Because they’ve learned how good it feels to serve, they are better positioned to accept help when their time comes. And they can do so without embarrassment or shame.
Resilient individuals give themselves permission to lean on others. So often, those who thrive do so because of the support they receive from others. They reach out for help. The experience of giving help prepares them for receiving help.
Good for You, Good for Family
Volunteering is a great activity to do alone. But it can certainly be a meaningful way to spend time with your children. Look for opportunities in your neighborhood. If you want to travel, investigate the National Park Service. Its Volunteers-In-Parks program offers ideas for incorporating volunteerism into your child’s next school or summer vacation. To find out more, visit https://www.nps.gov/getinvolved/volunteer.htm.
Opportunities for Giving Back are Everywhere
There are opportunities in every community to make a difference. Your teen’s school may be a great place to start. You may also want to explore opportunities at local religious institutions or food pantries, both terrific choices. There are countless others.
Remember, also, that many opportunities exist in our daily lives, not connected to any formal programs. We often need to look no further than our own neighborhood to find a person in need of our unique talents . . . or just our presence.
If you want to investigate formal volunteer options available across the country, these websites may help:
Create the Good
One Final (and Wonderful) Benefit
Giving back has one extra benefit worth mentioning. Getting into the habit of serving others is an indispensable parenting tool. Just by watching parents volunteer, children are more likely to give their time, too –- today, and many years from now. And this will no doubt serve them well…far into adulthood.