There are mental health benefits to being kind and giving to people less fortunate than yourself. Part of the satisfaction comes from being able to take your mind off of your troubles, even if it’s just for a few minutes. You immediately become aware of how this results in a noticeable reduction of stress. When you understand how stress and anxiety negatively affect the mind and body, you will understand why philanthropy has a positive impact on your physical health as well.

Stress as a Catalyst

When you think of stress, think of it as a catalyst for poor health conditions, including high blood pressure. Stress forces the body to release hormones that trigger a “flight or fight” response into the bloodstream. It’s the presence of these hormones in the bloodstream that increases the heart rate and raises blood pressure. High blood pressure has been linked to heart attacks and strokes. If you can find ways of relieving stress, the likelihood of developing these health conditions decreases significantly.

Why Philanthropy Reduces Stress

While the exact reasons for the reduction in stress just from giving are not quite clear, it could probably be attributed to the sense of purpose that results from giving. The pleasant words “thank you” may be all the encouragement your body needs to release other kinds of hormones into the bloodstream. These are called endorphins, and they can turn your bad day into a good day almost instantly.

Anything you do that is associated with joy and happiness has the same effect, including giving freely to charity. This is why people being treated for depression are encouraged to take part in activities that are fun and exhilarating. Exercising, sex and eating your favorite foods all have the same type of endorphin-releasing effect. If you take part in fun and relaxing activities regularly, as a form of therapy, you can change your brain chemistry for the better. This can improve mental health dramatically.

There have even been studies that have proven that being unselfish and giving can actually prolong your life. Donating to charities for needy children, for example, provides millions who can afford it a sense of accomplishment. It feels good to know that your money is going towards giving an innocent child a chance at a better life. And the positive health benefits are a bonus! Also, the opportunity to join a team of any kind, through sport or charitable organization provides you with the best opportunity to share in your giving and to support others in their effort to make a charitable difference in the world!

Originally published on Andrew Elsoffer‘s website!