May 3, 2011
Tracey L. Chavous
Health and Wellness Writer
One of the greatest health benefits of giving is that it can do wonders for the heart. Altruism is noted as having an unselfish concern for the welfare of others. It is a kindhearted way of expressing gratitude for all that one has been given. With all of the stressors of the modern world, at times it is what we do for others that can have the most value in the long run. Thus, this healthy form of living provides opportunities to enable the body to experience bountiful rewards such as a reduction in chronic hostility toward others, an increase in the immune functioning of the body, stress reduction, activation of the endorphins that provide “feel good” emotions, and a “helper’s high” that promotes a euphoric sense of satisfaction that results in a calm feeling of gratitude and peace. These feelings are linked to many more health benefits than we could ever possibly see with the naked eye. Additionally, researcher and stress relief expert Lauren E. Miller shares the following physiological benefits of random acts of kindness and giving:
- Increased immune system
- Improved cognitive performance
- Increase in energy
- Lower heart rate
- Balanced cortisol levels, resulting in less internal stress
- More likely to live a longer and more satisfied life
- Laughter and inner joy resulting in decreased stress hormones; lower blood pressure; diminished pain
Giving has its own secret joy factor. Giving can come in many forms and are not limited to any list of ideas. According to Zenhabits.com there are about 25 ways to help a fellow human being:
- Smile and be friendly. Sometimes a simple smile from you can also put a smile and warm feelings in someone else’s heart. It might make their day a little better and encourage them to do the same for others.
- Call a charity to volunteer. You don’t have to go to a soup kitchen immediately. Decide today to look up the number, make the call and make the appointment to volunteer at some point within the next month. It can be whatever charity you like. Volunteering is one of the most amazing things you can do.
- Donate something you don’t use. Decide to give away what you don’t want or need in your home. If you have a spare of anything, give it to someone who needs it more. Grab a few boxes, fill them up and drop them off at a charity. Others can put your clutter to good use.
- Make a donation. There are lots of ways to donate to charities online or in your local community. Instead of buying yourself a new gadget or outfit, spend that money in a more positive way.
- Redirect gifts. Instead of having people give you birthday or Christmas gifts, ask them to donate gifts or money to a certain charity.
- Stop to help. The next time you see someone pulled over with a flat tire or somehow in need of help, stop and ask how you can help. Sometimes all they need is a push or the use of your cell phone.
- Teach. Take the time to teach someone a skill you know. This could be teaching your grandma to use email, teaching your child to ride a bike or teaching your co-worker a valuable computer skill.
- Comfort someone in grief. Often a hug, a helpful hand, a kind word or a listening ear will go a long way when someone has lost a loved one or suffered some similar loss or tragedy.
- Help them take action. If someone in grief seems to be lost and doesn’t know what to do, help them do something. It could be making funeral arrangements. It could be making a doctor’s appointment or making phone calls. Don’t do it all yourself; let them take action too, because it helps in the healing process.
- Buy food for a homeless person. Cash is often a bad idea if it’s going to be used for drugs, but buying a sandwich and chips or food products is a good gesture. Be respectful and friendly.
- Lend your ear. Often someone who is sad, depressed, angry or frustrated just needs someone who will listen. Venting and talking through an issue is a huge help to someone who needs your listening ear.
- Help someone on the edge. If someone is suicidal, urge them to get help. If they don’t, call a suicide hotline or doctor yourself to get advice.
- Help someone get active. A person in your life who wants to get healthy might need a helping hand. Offer to go walking or running together, to join a gym together. Once they get started, it can have profound effects.
- Do a chore. Helping a friend or neighbor do something small or large such as cleaning up, washing a car, doing the dishes or cutting a lawn can be priceless.
- Give a massage. Only when appropriate, of course, a massage can go a long way to making someone feel better.
- Send a nice email. Just a quick note to tell someone how much you appreciate them or how proud you are of them can make someone’s day. Just saying thank you for something that was done or given to you can lift your spirit and theirs.
- Show appreciation, publicly. Praising someone on a blog, in front of coworkers, in front of family or in some other public way is a great way to make them feel better about themselves.
- Donate food. Clean out your cupboard of canned goods, or buy a couple bags of groceries and donate them to a homeless shelter.
- Just be there. When someone you know is in need, sometimes it’s just good to be there, sit with them, talk or help out if you can.
- Be patient. Sometimes people can have difficulty understanding things or learning to do something correctly. Learn and practice being patient with them.
- Tutor a child. This might be difficult to do today, but often parents can’t afford to hire a tutor for their child in need of help. Call a school and volunteer your tutoring services.
- Create a care package. Soup, reading material, tea, chocolate and anything you think the person might need or enjoy is good for someone who is sick or otherwise in need of a pick-me-up.
- Lend your voice. Often the powerless, the homeless, the neglected in our world need someone to speak up for them. You don’t have to take on that cause by yourself. Join others in signing a petition, speaking up a council meeting, writing letters and otherwise giving a special need a voice.
- Offer to babysit. Sometimes parents need a break. If a friend or other loved one in your life doesn’t get that chance very often, call them and offer to babysit sometime. Set an appointment. It can make an enormous difference.
- Love. Simply finding ways to express your love toward others, whether it be your partner, child, family member, friend, co-worker or a complete stranger, just express your love. A hug, a kind word, spending time, showing kindness or being friendly. It all matters more than you know.
Giving and receiving are companion energies that take turns throughout our lives. We all get a chance to be on both sides of the exchange from time to time. Giving of your time, gifts and talents are unconditional gifts that add value to living and life itself. Go ahead, live it up; your heart and soul will reap grand health benefits!