There’s a new reason you should take up volunteering besides trying to impress that girl at the soup kitchen. A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that people who help others are less likely to die after experiencing stressful life events.
There is previous research that shows how stressful events, such as the death of a loved one or a divorce, can shorten your life due to the stress they cause. While this bad news is certain to worsen the already bad day of someone in the wake of the some other serious stressor, there is hope amid the angst! The study looked at 846 adults and concluded that those who volunteered their time to do good deeds for others were less likely to die in the five years following a stressful tragedy.
The participants who did not often help other people had a less optimistic outcome: Any stressful event they experienced increased their risk of death by a whopping 30% compared to those who did good deeds.
The magic at work behind these results is the simple fact that good karma is good for your health—when you care about someone else’s wellbeing, it removes your focus from yourself and can actually reduce your stress levels. The lowered stress levels from experiencing compassion and connecting with people in need can in turn decrease the harmful effects of stress on your health.
So how can you get involved and reach out to those who need your help? It’s easier than you might think. Many cities have volunteer boards that help not-for-profit organizations connect with eager volunteers, just as a job board would post available positions to hopeful candidates. Search online to see if your area has an equivalent website to check out.
“Just do something local, enjoyable, and complimentary to your skillset”, suggests Bill Coplin, Ph.D., who is the author of How You Can Help: An Easy Guide to Doing Good Deeds in Your Everyday Life. He also recommends Catchafire.org as a way to connect professionals with not-for-profit groups that are seeking help in various aspects of their organization.
It seems that doing a good deed truly is a win-win situation, because all parties involved derive some benefit from it. Make an effort to start volunteering a few times a month and enjoy the reduced stress and extended life expectancy that are bestowed on those who do right thing.