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Why Giving Back is Good for Your Employees’ Health

Philosophers have written about generosity throughout history. In most philosophies, giving back is essential to being a happy, fulfilled person who is a valued part of a community. Over 63 million Americans give approximately 8 billion hours of time volunteering for non-profit organizations annually.

So why have we, throughout the ages, decided that giving back is so important?

Volunteerism helps social causes, allows communities to thrive, builds leadership skills in volunteers, and is beneficial to companies who actively invest in their communities. For many, giving back is simply the right thing to do, but according to research, it is also good for physical and mental health.

Research shows that volunteers are not only helping those they are serving, but also themselves; individuals who are generous with their time and/or money are often reported to be happier and healthier than those who are not.

Employees who volunteer also tend to perform better in the workplace. How Volunteerism Shapes Professional Success, a study conducted by Markitects, Inc., surveyed 90 working professionals with an average of 24 years in the workforce to assess the effect volunteerism has on professional development. Out of the 90 participants surveyed, 83% of respondents listed leadership as a skill they acquired, improved, or developed as a result of volunteering.

Encouraging your employees to engage in purposeful volunteer work in your community is good not just good for your brand image, it also helps support the mental and physical health of your workforce. Here’s why:

Giving Back Lowers Stress Levels

Neuroscientist Jorge Moll of the National Institute of Health found that when people donate money, the mesolimbic system in the brain, which is in charge of releasing feel-good neurotransmitters, is activated.

The mesolimbic pathway mediates pleasure and rewarding experiences. This phenomenon, also known as the “helper’s high”, has been confirmed by research to lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, increase self-esteem, and boost happiness.

This makes sense because increased feelings of compassion, humanity, and kindness leave less room for negative emotions.

Volunteering Can Help Improve Sleep Patterns

A study from Northwestern University found that people who feel as though they are making meaningful change in the world have an unexpected benefit: they sleep better. According to WebMD, individuals who get a good night’s sleep are more likely to have:

  • Sharper brain activity
  • Elevated mood levels
  • Healthier hearts
  • More consistent blood sugar levels
  • Boosted immune system

Generosity Is Key to Leading a Longer, Healthier Life

In their book, “Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving”, Dr. Stephen Post and journalist Jill Neimark cite scientific research supporting the theory that individuals can build more robust physical and mental health by paying attention to what they love to do, being generous financially, emotionally, and with the use of their personal time in the service of family, local communities, and with our global collective challenges.

Post writes: “The remarkable bottom line of the science of love is that giving protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease." The connection between generosity and health is astonishing.

Volunteering Promotes Social Connection

As humans, we crave bonds with each other. Social connection is essential not only to our emotional well-being, but our physical health too—research shows that mortality rates are up to 50% higher in individuals who feel socially isolated.

Volunteering is an amazing way for your employees to boost their sense of social connection because they are rallying with others to make their community a better place (for everyone!).

Ancient wisdom and modern science seem to agree on the fact that generosity is beneficial to both ourselves and others. Volunteering can be a way to better your physical and mental health—a joyous side effect of lending a helping hand to someone in need.

Getting involved takes time and commitment, but those who give their time for free are building the foundation for a longer, healthier, more purposeful life.


Related Categories

Employee Health & Wellness

Michael Leos

Michael Leos is SWBC’s Community Relations Manager. He is responsible for managing the company’s volunteer initiatives and the company relationships and programs that bring employees together and promote SWBC’s core values throughout the community. Michael also oversees and writes the company’s internal political newsletter.

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