I have a friend who says that in describing people that we are all like sheep. And “sheep just want to be happy.” But that’s the age-old question—how do you become happy?
Dr. Dan Arley, Professor of Behavioral Economics and Psychology at Duke University, notes that if you are the receiver of a good deed or gift, then you will experience momentary happiness. On the other hand, Dr. Arley says “People are happier when they give, even if they are just following instructions.”
The way we give is important as well. For giving to be meaningful, it must be deliberately and thoughtfully so that other people will benefit from it says Arley.
Similarly, in 2012, Sara Konrath noted in Health Psychology that older adult volunteers lived longer than their counterparts who did not volunteer. Konrath indicated that when we give to benefit others and shift our focus away from ourselves that it has a positive health benefit.
In 2010, a United Healthcare study of 4,500 adults showed that for people who volunteer that they have less trouble sleeping, less anxiety, better friendships and a sense of control over chronic conditions. The study went so far as to suggest that giving provided a way to manage chronic pain.
A 2013 study by Carnegie Mellon showed that adults who volunteered 200 hours per year were 40% less likely to develop high blood pressure.
The health benefits of giving hold true for young adults as well. A study of 10th graders in Vancouver found that students who spent an hour per week serving others had lower levels of inflammation and lower cholesterol.
As Stephen Post of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine points out: “Volunteering move people into the present and distracts the mind from the stresses and problems of the self.”
And here’s perhaps the best part, a prescription for giving and generosity is far less expensive than any medical treatment!
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Published December 15, 2016