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A Healthier You

Researchers Explain Why Volunteering Is The Best Kept Secret to Good Mental Health

11/04/2018

(Power of Positivity) – Volunteering is the best secret to good mental health. Essentially, doing good for others does good for you. It’s not often talked about, but it’s one of the best ways to improve your psychological well-being.

Things you do that make a positive impact on the world are typically done as acts of selflessness. This means you rarely expect anything in return, and expecting such a thing rather defeats the purpose, anyway. But that doesn’t mean that volunteering doesn’t come with its share of benefits for the kind volunteers!

7 REASONS WHY VOLUNTEERING IS THE BEST KEPT SECRET TO GOOD MENTAL HEALTH

“Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.” – Unknown

1.    VOLUNTEERING MAKES YOU FEEL HAPPIER

Many of us are familiar with the joyful feeling we get from doing a random act of kindness. As a matter of fact, the act of helping others, even in any small way, can promote happiness overall. Imagine what it’s like for people who volunteer regularly!

 

Studies have shown results that prove helping others can actually light up reward centers in the brain. And they’re not just any reward centers – they’re the ones associated with things like intimacy and food. This means that the brain gets a totally natural high from volunteering and providing assistance to others!

There is one slight caveat to this great way to promote positive thinking. A job where kindness and caring for others is required cannot produce the same results. Examples of this are in healthcare fields and similar aid work.

This means if you are seeking happiness from helping others, your best bet is to volunteer! Choose to put your effort into work that you personally find important and meaningful. The feeling you get from helping these causes and people in those situations will be phenomenal! No wonder volunteering is the best secret to good mental health!

 

2.    IT LEADS TO MORE OXYTOCIN PRODUCTION

Those who volunteer regularly reportedly actually produce higher oxytocin levels. These spikes are characteristic in these individuals, according to a study in the Hormones and Behavior journal.

  • Oxytocin is a neurotransmitter responsible for the regulation of social interaction.
  • As such, volunteering can make you better at social interaction and help ease anxiety that some experience with that kind of pressure.
  • It might even have positive effects on those with more serious social anxiety, though this requires further research.
  • This boost in the neurotransmitter is great for mental health, as having a healthy amount of social activity in one’s life can make you feel happier overall.
  • People with depression would do well to take time out occasionally to try and participate in a social event.

Oxytocin is also known for its ability to abate stress levels, which we’ll discuss more in our next point. For now, it’s clear enough to see that the spike in levels of the neurotransmitter does wonders for mental health!

3.    IT HELPS WITH STRESS MANAGEMENT

When you’re stressed, distracting yourself from your problems for a while can help calm you down. That’s why volunteering works so well. You’re pushing your own worries aside temporarily in order to pour time into making an improvement in someone else’s life.

Even if all you’re doing is having a conversation with someone else, or interacting with a pet, you’re still building a meaningful connection with another individual. You are giving them your attention and engaging in social activities, which takes your mind off of stress.

According to a study by Rodlescia Sneed and Sheldon Cohen, published in the Psychology and Aging Journal, there might be a physical reason behind this benefit. Apparently, volunteering is capable of lowering blood pressure.

The study found that those who practice volunteering activities for around 200 hours a year are likely to have lower blood pressure. (Some other studies have placed this number at around 100 hours, too.) This means volunteering is not only the best secret to good mental health – it’s a secret to some aspects of physical health, too!

Read the full story at powerofpositivity.com


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