Think you feel good when you volunteer to read to the elderly, or plant vegetables in an inner city garden space, or any of the other great things you probably do to help others? There might some real evidence why that is!
They learned that education, class and work distinctions did not affect the women's longevity, nor did the number of children the women had to care for. After following the subjects for 30 years, they learned that although 36 percent of the women who volunteered experienced a major illness over the years, of those who did not volunteer, 52 percent experienced a major illness. Hmmm.
Here’s the medical deal: When we do good on behalf of others we reduce our stress levels, thus reducing the adverse affects of hormones like cortisol and high heart and breathing rates that adversely affect our immune and cardiovascular systems. These stress responses weaken the body’s defenses opening us up to abnormal cellular changes, including premature breakdown of natural functions and even cancer. In studies of telomeres—the end-caps of our genes—researchers found that long-term stress can shorten those end-caps, and shortened end-caps are linked with early death.
“Ultimately,” said one source, “the process of cultivating a positive emotional state through pro-social behaviors—being generous—may lengthen your life.”
So, add this evidence of a longer, even happier life to your own urges to put your hands and heart to work for others. Most people don’t need this evidence…but it is certainly nice to know. Happy helping all you great people!