If I told you that a key to happiness would be to give away money, would you believe me?
Researchers recently gave a group of volunteers $5 or $20 each. Half of the group was told to spend the money on themselves and the other half was told to spend it on others. Regardless of the amount, the volunteers who spent money on themselves reported an insignificant boost in happiness, while the people who spent money on others felt much happier.
Scientists have found that when people donate to charity, it activates areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. They also believe that giving releases endorphins, which are hormones that boost mood and reduce stress.
You don’t need to donate money to boost your mood – giving your time works just as well. Several studies have linked volunteering to a reduced risk of death among seniors, and lower rates of depression. While volunteering promotes health for people of all ages, scientists have found that older adults get the most benefits.
As a long-time Hebrew SeniorLife volunteer and the current president of the Friends of Hebrew SeniorLife, I’ve experienced that happy feeling that comes with helping others. My husband and I often bring our two young children when we visit with Hebrew SeniorLife residents or deliver holiday meals. We hope that by doing so, our children will find the same joy we feel in helping others. Volunteering with family has made us more connected to our community. The seniors who live in Hebrew SeniorLife’s communities have many stories to share, and I think that my family benefits from these visits as much as the seniors do.
For many people, the holidays are a time for feeling charitable. Amid the hustle and bustle of shopping, cooking, and parties, if you’re looking for a way to relieve stress and improve your mood, try giving time or money to a cause you care about.
You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Hebrew SeniorLife on our website, or make a donation to support health care, communities, research, and teaching that is redefining the experience of aging.