February is American Heart Month, so it is a good time to think about our heart health. What are simple ways to strengthen our heart and keep it healthy? You can probably recite most of them: eat right, sleep enough, stop smoking, get moving, and give joyfully.
Wait? Give joyfully? Yes, that’s right! More and more research showsthat giving joyfullyhas a direct connection to our psychological and physical health. Here are five ways giving is good for your heart:
Giving Lowers Stress Levels
Minor stress and long-term stress are hard on the heart, potentially causing poor blood flow, increased clotting, and an increase in blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. That all sounds bad! But researchers have found that giving generously lowers stress levels, striking at the root of many health problems. When you give, you put others before yourself, and it turns your mind away from your own troubles, worries, and concerns—alleviating stress and its effects on your heart, mind and body.
Giving Lowers Blood Pressure
Giving can also lower your blood pressure. Researchers at John Hopkins University created a test to determine the relationship between blood pressure and giving. They found that giving results in lower, healthier blood pressure levels as the giver ends up with “greater self-efficacy, greater self-esteem, less depression, and less stress.” And keeping blood pressure levels in a healthy range saves lives by preventing heart disease, stroke, and other serious health problems.
Giving Protects You from Heart Disease
The Corporation for National and Community Service released a report looking at the benefits of giving (both time and money). Among other findings, the report concluded that greater giving and volunteering resulted in “greater longevity and less incidence of heart disease.”
Giving Helps You to Live Longer
In Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post writes, “Giving reduces mortality significantly in later life, even when you start later” because, as we have seen above, generous giving lowers stress and depression, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of heart disease—leading to better overall health and a longer life.” Similarly, a University of Michigan study found that, “Making a contribution to the lives of other people may help to extend our own lives.” Even though we give from a place of selflessness, we reap tremendous benefits!
Giving Means Greater Happiness and Satisfaction
In addition to all the health benefits above, giving results in greater happiness and satisfaction to the giver. A report by the Cleveland Clinic states that “There is evidence that, during gift-giving behaviors, humans secrete ‘feel good’ chemicals in our brains, such as serotonin (a mood-mediating chemical), dopamine (a feel-good chemical) and oxytocin (a compassion and bonding chemical).” These give you an immediate “helper high,” that warm, fuzzy feeling of joy, fulfillment, and satisfaction—and the effects can go on for weeks.
When you give to your favorite cause, place of worship or nonprofit, you show that you support them and want good for them. Your donation connects you to their work and mission, making you an integral part of their organization. But as we have seen above, as much as they will benefit, you will benefit too! Get a healthier heart and support your favorite organization or cause by donating through the Givelify app.
Sarah Braud is a storyteller, writer, and educator. Sarah’s core values — creativity, compassion, and connection —converge in her role as Senior Content Producer at Givelify. Her nonprofit marketing and screenwriting background are galvanized in her passions for social justice, faith, and neuroscience.