Giving Back Benefits More than Just the Recipients
There are many reasons we work out. To gain strength. To lose weight. To feel good. Because feeling good feels, well, good. We chase the endorphins and the “natural high” we get from strenuous athletic activity. It’s what keeps us coming back to the field, to the court, and to the gym. It’s rewarding, the body and mind telling us that we’re achieving something worthwhile. In this case, something no less important than our own health and well-being. But this sense of satisfaction, this physical and mental boost, it’s not just isolated to the weights or restricted to the treadmill. This same sense of rewarding accomplishment, this same “natural high” that has such a positive impact on our overall state of well-being, can be replicated in many other aspects of our lives as well. And to the point of this post, it can be replicated by impacting the lives of others. Giving, quite simply, releases endorphins much like physical activity does, and therefore can make us feel just as good.
Altruism is defined as the belief in or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others. It’s a bit ironic then, that in this culture largely viewed as being vastly self-centered, we spend so much of our time, efforts and yes, dollars, on helping others. But when you dive a little deeper, perhaps it’s not so ironic at all, given that the positive mental and physical health benefits one receives when donating their time and dollars to others, ultimately benefits themselves. The “helper’s high” is benefitting the giver, because the giver is giving to others. Now, true, making oneself feel better is not at all the only reason people give, but why not bring yet another positive element of giving back, to the forefront?
Some studies have shown that giving and donating can actually lead to a longer life. If depression and anxiety stem from inner strife, and giving to others provides an opportunity to divert our attention away from ourselves, it does make sense. It’s also true that in this life we strive for purpose, and giving to a cause can provide just that. Giving also provides another channel for social connection with other donors interested in the same cause, which provides and promotes invaluable interactions and leads to a more positive outlook on life. A little spin on the old adage “what comes around goes around” could be that when you give (to others), you receive (to yourself). And when people say “you get out what you put in”, you could say, “if you put in, you get out”. Either way, donating, be it money, hours or other, can have such positive health benefits including decreased stress, lower blood pressure, heightened self esteem and greater happiness. It’s been proven that the brain reacts to the act of giving much in the same way it reacts positively to pleasure, so the more you give, the more pleasure you get. And the more pleasant you are, the better your mental and physical health.
The positive impacts of giving are many, and not just for the recipients. So if you’re interested in feeling better, being happier and living longer, consider giving to others as a great way to help you do so.
And to learn more about all the YMCA does & how you can support, visit metroymca.org/support-the-ymca
John Monson, Chief Advancement Officer