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‘Tis the Season of Giving

Many studies have found that acts of generosity, such as volunteer work or making a donation, significantly benefit people of all ages, both physically and psychologically. Acts of generosity can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of dementia, lessen anxiety and depression, reduce cardiovascular risk, and contribute to overall greater happiness.

There is a biological reason for this. Giving to charity arouses regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. The act of helping others also releases “happiness chemicals” such as dopamine and endorphins, while reducing stress, which is known to contribute to a variety of health problems.

There are psychological reasons too. Being generous causes us to view others with more compassion, to feel better about ourselves and grateful for our own good fortune. Kindness promotes a sense of connection with others that can start a chain reaction as people pay altruistic acts forward. Volunteering increases self-esteem and satisfaction, providing greater rewards for the volunteer than for the recipient.

As Dr. Stephen G. Post, Director for the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University tells us, “sincerely contributing to the lives of others is a good way to live a happier and healthier life,” whether as a donor or a volunteer.

So during this season of giving, with its stresses and joys, consider performing an act of kindness that will help someone else – make a gift to El Camino Hospital Foundation. You could bring hope and healing to a cancer patient; counseling and relief to a distressed teen or new mother; the solace of on-call chaplain support; and so much more. Choose how you would like to help by visiting Donations of every amount make a difference every day in the lives of our patients and our community.

This article first appeared in the December 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.

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