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Donating is The Gift That Keeps Giving

Tis the season to be giving to the less fortunate! With the time of cheer under way, the generosity we feel starts to extend to others who need it most. But what if the donations you made for the season not only helped others, but yourself too?

You see, studies done on the benefits of donating show that it may cause lower blood pressure, increased happiness, decreased depression, a longer life and better physical fitness; all things it seems like we all need a little bit of around this busy time.

The National Institutes of Health conducted a study on people who give to charity and the results were telling. They found that donating causes stimulation in the mesolimbic pathway (the part of the brain that registers rewards) and releases endorphins similar to the high one would experience while drugs. The chemical dopamine, being one of the chemicals released in the ‘high’ has been shown to also reduce high blood pressure and fight depression according to the ETH Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. While giving can be addicting like drugs, it only produces positive effects on a person’s life! Take for example the experiment led by Dr. Elizabeth Dunn at the university of British Columbia and Harvard business school. This study found that people who spent $5 on themselves as opposed to on someone else were not as happy at the end of the day. Knowing that something as simple as putting a few extra dollars in a Salvation Army bucket on your way out of the grocery store can lead to a happier day adds just a bit more incentive, does it not?

According to the article The health Benefits of Giving by the Rush University medical center, a 2013 study conducted an experiment on 100 high school students. Two students with the same BMI were put into two different groups, one group would volunteer once a week for two months while the other would not volunteer whatsoever. At the end of the two months, the researchers found that the students who volunteered were more likely to have a lower BMI and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol than those who did not. Even with no changes to their normal diets or exercise patterns, volunteering was able to make these healthy changes in the students.

The Cleveland Clinic’s article Wanna Give? This Is Your Brain on a ‘Helper’s High’  tells of a study done at  the University of California, Berkeley in which they found that people 55 years of age and older who volunteered at more than one organization “…were 44 percent less likely to die over a five-year period than those who didn’t volunteer — even accounting for many other factors including age, exercise, general health and negative habits like smoking.”

Volunteering can not be only a miracle for someone else this holiday season, but can be for you too.