Wellness

How giving to others helps people overcome depression

A new study finds that the simple act of giving can chemically change the brain of someone who's depressed.

Family hugging one another, support

Photo: Masterfle

Feeling glum? Can’t quite get into the holiday spirit? Do something kind for someone else and you’ll lighten your mood without having to resort to the consumption of excessive amounts of sugar.

A recent article on goodtherapy.org reveals what many who make a point of putting others first already know: generous acts directed toward others promote personal well-being.

Many of us are overworked and often under-socialized — Tweeting just doesn’t cut it. We need real human contact to feel connected. And while the idea of spending an afternoon helping a pregnant pal organize the baby’s room, or taking an elderly relative out for lunch may not appear to be the secret to eternal happiness, these small acts of selflessness go a long way.

The article even suggests the effect may even be chemical — boosting your feel-good endorphins. A U.K. survey found that almost half of those who volunteer in their community credit the activity with overcoming depression. It also had a significant and positive affect on life satisfaction, with more than 60 percent saying that it reduced stress levels.

Volunteering can take many forms, however. It can simply become part of how you operate within your social group, or family. For example, supporting a friend through a painful divorce, or taking food and supplies to a family member laid up with the flu is equally worthy.

These small, but highly meaningful, gestures of goodwill pay off by reemphasizing bonds of connection between friends and family. In a nice twist, they also make us happier too.

Watch how one company got into the giving spirit below (warning, you may need a tissue):

Have you recently volunteered or helped someone? Tell us about it in the comment section below.