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Generosity Heals: Giving Back Can Benefit Your Health

November 21, 2018

When we give—whether it’s of our time or our finances—we tend to focus on what that will mean for the people receiving support, thinking about the impact our generosity will have on the lives of others. But research indicates that the positive impact of giving extends to the giver as well as the receiver.

Susan Barcus, FAHP, president of Kettering Medical Center Foundation and chief development officer for Kettering Health Network, sees first-hand the impact that giving can have on a person’s well-being—even if the act of giving isn’t planned. She recalled one donor who shared that his volunteer work and charitable giving helped in his healing process following the passing of his wife.

“Folks know giving back to the place where they get their care isn’t expected; it’s an unexpected act of gratitude,” Susan says.

Studies that include neuroimaging have shown that brains literally “light up” when people express gratitude, specifically in the areas associated with pleasure and reward, as well as the area related to connecting with others. Gratitude can also:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve immune function
  • Facilitate more efficient sleep
  • Increase happiness, motivation, and optimism
  • Reduce stress
  • Decrease lifetime risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders
  • Increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Decrease levels of bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Lower levels of systolic and diastolic blood pressure
  • Increase levels of heart rate variability
  • Lower levels of creatinine
  • Lower levels of C-reactive protein—a marker of cardiac inflammation indicating heart disease

People who focus on gratitude also exercise more often, eat better, and are less likely to smoke.

Robert Emmons, PhD, and leading researcher on the science of gratitude says, “When you give, it is more than giving your time and resources; fundamentally, it is about giving of your whole self. Because of this, gratitude is healing.”

To learn more about opportunities to give, click here.