We’re sure that most of you know that volunteering is a most welcome thing that gives volunteers a long-lasting good feeling. Alongside the good feeling and, of course, the help given to people who need it, in recent years researchers have also been examining the direct connection between volunteer work and the surprising health benefits they provide to our body. Recently, a study was conducted at the University of Pittsburgh showing a connection between volunteering and positive health effects on our brain which I’m sure we’d all like to enjoy, so read on to learn about the study’s conclusions…
If we examine the dry definition of volunteering, we find that it is an act that is done of a person’s free will towards another person, without compensation, material or otherwise neither motivated by a certain idea or purpose. Over the years, many people have investigated this blessed endeavor and tried to define it even more accurately, but in the end, they have returned to a fairly similar definition.
So, if you decide to go to hospital once a week and make children happy, help an elderly woman cross the street, provide after-school tutoring or join a Big Brother/Sister program – you’re volunteering. Of course, there is a big difference between regular volunteering and temporary volunteering, but in both of these situations, you act without any personal gain. In addition to the good feeling you receive as a result of volunteering, you also enjoy the health benefits that have been studied in recent decades.
In 2005, a group of researchers at Stanford University in the United States found that people who volunteer regularly tend to get sick less and live much longer than the rest of the population. In addition, it was found that volunteering encourages an optimistic view of life, reduces problematic and dangerous behaviors, prevents depression, and helps improve self-esteem, according to a 2002 study. If all of this has not convinced you why volunteering helps health, another study was recently conducted at Pittsburgh University, the one mentioned at the beginning of the article, whose results surprised many people.
The University of Pittsburgh has decided to investigate how volunteer activity affects the human brain. Researchers divided the study into two. In the first part, they collected 45 volunteers and offered them the opportunity to perform a task that would benefit either them, a charity or a friend in distress. The researchers then scanned the volunteers' brains and found fascinating and significant differences between the various choices made. Not only did the volunteers who chose to help a particular person show increased activity in the reinforcement system - the group of neural structures in the brain that create a sense of pleasure in response to certain stimuli - but also decreased activity in three different regions of the brain responsible for the body's response to stress due to inflammation or blood pressure.
In the second part of the study, they similarly examined a larger number of people, 400 volunteers, who showed similar results. True, there are various foods that fight inflammation and natural treatments to regulate blood pressure, but if we rely on this important research, it turns out that there is a natural, simple, empowering and healthy way that can keep your body healthy, and it’s volunteering.
Dr. Tristen Inagaki, a professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh who led the two studies, explains that humans are born especially vulnerable and depend on others, and as a result, we demand constant help throughout our lives, even if we don’t ask for it outright. The instinctive desire to help others may depend on those areas of the brain - they promise supportive behavior. Dr. Inagaki goes on to explain that those mechanisms that promise help for others may also contribute to the long-term health effects we see as a result of giving.
Now that you’ve read about the direct connection between various volunteer activities and the health benefits they provide volunteers with, we’re sure that you’ll also want to take part in these blessed acts. Whether you are already volunteering with an organization or thinking about it starting, you’ll know that you can pat yourself on the back because not everyone does so and now you have another good reason to continue volunteering - keeping your body and mind healthy. We’re confident that you’ll choose to share this important content with your friends so that they too can reap the health benefits and good feelings that come with volunteering!