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Most people who have never volunteered before might not realize how much it also benefits them in return. It may seem counterintuitive, but the act of giving up your resources and/or your time to help others can actually boost your mental and physical health in insurmountable ways. 

As far as the physical benefits go, there have been many studies proving the correlation between health and altruism. When you help others, it makes you feel happy, which is a simplified way of saying that feel-good hormones are being released into your body. These hormones, such as dopamine and endorphins, are nature’s way of rewarding you for doing something satisfying. There is an entire chain reaction that comes from elevated levels of calming hormones. Much like the numerous health issues faced when too much of the stress hormone, cortisol, is released into the body, the opposite is true for the other parts of the endocrine system. 

When engaging in pleasing activities for extended periods of time, there are long-term benefits as well. Some people experience lower blood pressure, while others see a marked decrease in anxiety and depression. Self-esteem is another positive side-effect that comes from changing someone else’s life for the better, even if they are a total stranger. Knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life is a way to fill up mental reserves, and your brain can then draw from them during more stressful times in life. 

Giving is also contagious. There are many examples of people paying it forward and others following suit. When one person gives, it inspires other people to do the same because they know how good they just felt. ​It also helps increase your social circle with like-minded people. When you network by meeting people who are also at an activity you enjoy, it means you have something in common. Humans are very social creatures who thrive on true, real connections with others. By definition, the type of person who is selfless enough to want to donate their time and energy in order to make other people happy is the type of person who will most likely display other traits such as integrity and loyalty. These are great foundations for any relationship, no matter what type it blossoms into.