At the end of a long day sometimes a hot bath, or snuggling up to read a good book is exactly what we need to recharge. While having a relaxing day to yourself can be the cure to relieve stress, reenergize your spirit, or eradicate a sour mood, a different approach may be just as effective and have great long-term effects on your health.
What is this magical alternative?
A study conducted by Alex H. S. Harris and Carl E. Thoresen found that volunteerism (defined as two hours per week over many years) reduces mortality rates by 40 percent. That, my friends, is a significant amount.
Not only can you gain enduring benefits from serving others, but there are also immediate effects as well. Each time you reach out to help someone, even a small act, you take a risk.
Theories state that taking that risk to help someone releases a hormone called oxytocin. Dr. Stephanie Brown says, “Oxytocin helps cells repair themselves, store nutrients, and grow.” Increased amounts of oxytocin could protect you from stress, while increasing serenity. Dr. Brown recommends a simple act of care to break the cycle of chronic stress.
I’m a big believer in serving others and have seen it instantly lift my mood.
One morning, I was feeling particularly stressed with my laundry list of responsibilities, when it was time for me to mentor at the local elementary school. I seriously considered skipping. Despite my enormous to-do list screaming at me I was found helping second graders with long division within the hour.
That day, one boy was particularly discouraged with his math worksheet. I could relate to his struggles — math didn’t come to me easily in elementary school either. As we worked together I was able to see the light bulb turn on and he “got it.” It was so rewarding to put my concerns aside and see the look of exasperation on a child turn into a look of confidence.
Your Live It! Challenge
Now, without further delay, here’s your next Live it! Challenge: Complete an act of service for someone else.
You can do something small daily, like holding the door open for someone, or a planned act of service each week, like volunteering at a local charity. Whatever you decide make it a concerted effort to be a regular part of your life.
Take a moment to brainstorm small and big things you can do to help others. Be sure to think of things that you’ll enjoy doing as well, especially when it comes to long-term volunteering. If you love to sew, look into sewing blankets for a woman’s shelter. If you enjoy sports, look into the process to become a volunteer coach.
Whether big or small acts, you can make a difference in someone else’s life and reap short- and long-term benefits as well. I think it’s safe to say we would all enjoy a longer life with less stress.
Don’t forget to tell us about your experiences. We’d love to hear about how you are living a richer life by giving more.