VOL­UN­TEER­ING CAN MAKE YOU HEALTH­IER

Friday - - In The Uae -

The un­in­tended re­turn that comes with an act of kind­ness or gen­eros­ity is a pos­i­tive feel­ing that ex­perts call the ‘helper’s high’. Dr Mon­ica de Sousa Men­des, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist at Valiant Clinic Dubai, says this is a solid rea­son to do more good and vol­un­teer more, as re­search has linked gen­eros­ity to bet­ter health and im­proved hap­pi­ness: ‘Any kind of al­tru­is­tic be­hav­iour ac­ti­vates re­gions of the brain as­so­ci­ated with plea­sure, so­cial con­nec­tion and trust, cre­at­ing a warm glow ef­fect [eu­pho­ria].’

Ki­ran Borkar chan­nels the pos­i­tive en­ergy his in­ter­ac­tions with the stu­dents at Al Noor give him into build­ing his busi­ness. ‘My time at Al Noor leaves me re­freshed,’ he says. ‘I can’t ex­plain the feel­ing but at some point you’ll re­alise you’ve be­come a more re­spon­si­ble and peace­ful per­son at heart.’

Vol­un­teer­ing, Dr Men­des says, not only im­proves well-be­ing but it’s also linked to de­creased de­pres­sion and pro­motes a sense of trust and co­op­er­a­tion that strength­ens our ties to oth­ers. A study pub­lished in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Psy­chophys­i­ol­ogy found that peo­ple who gave so­cial sup­port had lower blood pres­sure than those who didn’t. ‘There is ev­i­dence that while do­ing vol­un­teer work for char­i­ta­ble in­sti­tu­tions the brain se­cretes feel good en­dor­phins such as sero­tonin, dopamine and oxy­tocin, a com­pas­sion and bond­ing chem­i­cal,’ says Dr Men­des.

For Jake and the K9 vol­un­teers, play­ing with the pup­pies cheers them up in­stantly. ‘Within 10 min­utes we’re happy be­cause we’ve made them [the dogs] happy by spend­ing time with them.’

If an act of kind­ness goes around, it comes around, too, ex­plains Dr Men­des: ‘Stud­ies have sug­gested that when we give to oth­ers our gen­eros­ity is likely to be re­warded by oth­ers down the line.

‘When you see the hap­pi­ness on the faces of the lit­tle girls we helped, you know that you will only get good in re­turn,’ Fa­tima Lari says of her vol­un­teer ex­pe­ri­ence. To Vic­to­ria, ‘it is im­por­tant to vol­un­teer be­cause it gives you an in­ter­nal joy; you don’t see it but you feel it. When you give, you’re also gain­ing some­thing in re­turn ’

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