Why it pays to be generous

By admin
24 December 2014

Helping others could be a great boost to your health.

Presents are all about the giving, right? It's easy to get caught up in writing massive Christmas lists at this time of year, or become competitive with people about who gets the most money spent on them. It's not really in the festive spirit - and there are other benefits to being generous, too. Here we look at why focusing on helping others could be a boost to your health.

Blood pressure

In 2006 a study which appeared in the International Journal of Psychophysiology found that people who helped out those in their social circle had lower blood pressure and arterial pressure than those who didn't. This is very important, because undetected high blood pressure can cause heart attacks and strokes. So surely you don't need any more encouragement to do your neighbours a favour?

Stress

Many studies have linked money to stress, which won't come as a shock to most people. But it's not just fears about not having enough which can stress you out; deciding how to spend cash also has an effect. According to health.com, a study by the Queensland University of Technology published in PLOS One found that people who made low offers in a bargaining game had as high heart rates as those who went in high. Another study found that stress hormone cortisol soared among people who didn't give money to their partner in another test. So splash out on friends and don't be tight when it's time for secret Santa.

Mood boosting

This will probably be a shocker for you, but a 2007 experiment in Science journal found that people who gave away money felt just as good as those who decided to keep it. It was no measly sum either; we're talking about $100. But the brain's pleasure centre was activated in the same way by those who donated it and decided to have it for themselves, showing helping people out really can affect your mood.

In practice

We're not suggesting it's time to donate all your worldly goods or your December pay cheque, but putting other people first is a good feeling. No matter how big or small, try reaching out this festive season. Giving something to charity is a great way to start if you're time poor; just donate what you can afford, as even small amounts can make a difference. Soup kitchens are always looking for volunteers too, or have a wardrobe clearout and give some of your warm clothes to a homeless shelter.

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