VOLUNTEERING CAN MAKE YOU HEALTHIER
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 ’