March 20 is International Day of Happiness

Research shows volunteering makes you happier

With the United Nations’ ‘International Day of Happiness’ just around the corner on Friday 20 March, it’s a great time to consider how doing things for others enhances personal happiness.

According to a study conducted by Syracuse University in 2007, people who give are 42% more likely than non-givers to say they were ‘very happy’ and 25% more likely to say they are ‘in excellent health’.

By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure, as it releases “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and vasopressin (known as the ‘helpers’ high’ to psychologists).

Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.

A study from Harvard Wharton, and Yale, found that happier people give more and giving makes people happier. This creates a positive feedback loop called ‘the happiness effect’.

In fact, you can catch ‘feel-good ‘emotions. Called the ‘emotional contagion’, if a person is feeling positive and enjoying the process of giving, then this spreads across to other people nearby who become significantly more likely to give as well.

Even though it can be hard to find time to volunteer, the benefits are undeniable.

Apart from helping people, worthwhile causes, and the community, being a volunteer connects you to others and is good for your mental and physical health. It helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, anxiety and depression.

In 2017, researchers at the University of Missouri and Brigham Young University conducted a study of almost 700 11- to 14-year-olds to examine how sharing, helping and comforting others affected self-confidence. The study found that these unselfish behaviors increased their feelings of self-worth. Those adolescents who assisted strangers, reported higher self-esteem even one year later.

Similarly, a 2013 study by Carnegie Mellon University found that adults over 50 who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure compare to non-volunteers.

If you’d like to explore volunteering, St Agnes’ Parish has many opportunities across a huge range of services such as aged care, childcare, youth services, lifestyle, pastoral care, and the parish gift shop. Contact Tanya Slavin, Volunteer Coordinator at Parish Administration 6588 7444 to talk through your areas of interest.