How Giving Is Good For Your Immune System

by Joan MacDonald

Giving may not only be more joyous than receiving, but recent studies show that it’s good for your immune system. Research shows that giving of your time and money can promote positive, stress-relieving changes in the body, such as lowering stress and decreasing blood pressure. 

Even thinking about doing good can have positive health benefits. A 2015  study found that the very idea of donating to a worthy cause helped potential donors lower blood pressure.

A later study showed that older adults reporting at least 200 hours of volunteer work within a four-year period were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than those who did not. A 2011 study found that people who volunteered lived a few years longer than those who did no, but motives may play a part. Those who volunteered selflessly experienced greater longevity that those who donated time for other reasons.

So as you can see, there are too many reasons to say “yes” to giving this holiday season. We at Z Living are hosting a giving program for shelters around the US! YOU can help us give away $5000 in grants this holiday season.

Just post a picture of your dog on social media, tag your favorite animal shelter’s social handle, add the hashtag #findingfido, and include the link to

Below are more reasons to give this holiday season.

Giving Lowers Inflammation Levels

Being generous may change your body on a cellular level. Researchers at UCLA and the University of North Carolina measured cellular inflammation levels in people who considered themselves to be very happy. They wanted to find out how feelings of happiness influenced cellular inflammation, which is now thought to contribute to chronic disease

Doing good proved to be a far healthier choice than feeling good. Researchers found that people who were happy because they sought personal pleasure still had high inflammation levels. People whose happiness was focused on goals greater than themselves had lower levels of cellular inflammation. 

More Giving Means Less Stress

Generosity prompts the brain to release a rush of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, called the “love” or “bonding” hormone and also the holiday hormone, for the merry feelings it inspires. Giving also prompts the release of serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with stress reduction.

Reducing stress may be the most important benefit for the immune system since stress lowers immune function by curtailing the body’s production of infection-fighting T-cells. Less stress can keep T-cells functioning at normal levels. 

Giving can also be a mental pick-me-up. The feeling of making a difference provides a sense of accomplishment, increases self-esteem and helps defeat feelings of hopelessness.

Our Generosity Center Lights Up With Pleasure

Why should we feel good when we help others? It turns out that our brains are wired to enjoy giving. 

The human brain is wired to feel pleasure when helping others or furthering social connections, because cooperation helps humans to survive and thrive. And while some altruistic behavior may be a learned behavior, studies have shown that our brains are naturally programmed to enjoy generosity.

There’s Even A “Generosity Center” In Your Brain

In 2016 scientists at Oxford University located the brain’s “generosity center” in the human brain, an area in the cerebral cortex. MRI scans show that this section of the brain lights up with pleasure when a person is giving.

The brain-imaging study done by the National Institutes of Health in 2007 found that the pleasure we experience when donating to charity is not unlike the pleasure we feel when eating ice cream or making love. The positive feelings generated by being generous encourage us to keep giving.

Get Creative When Giving

The benefits of giving do not depend on how much money you spend. Although giving is good, there’s no need to purchase high-end items for everyone on your holiday list. Racking up a big credit card bill is sure to stress you out and negate the stress-busting effects of giving . Nor do the health benefits of volunteering mean you need to join the Peace Corps, although that obviously has many benefits. When it comes to spreading holiday cheer, a simple gesture can go a long way. One study at Carnegie Mellon University, found that an act as simple as giving a hug can protect stressed people from getting sick.

Giving to others might be the best gift you get this holiday season. Being generous in December might be just the prescription you need for a healthier New Year. 


Seven Ways To Be Generous This Holiday Season

Simple gestures can create a happier, healthier holiday season. Here are just a few to inspire you:

  • Bring canned food for the holidays to a nearby food bank.
  • Donate supplies to an animal shelter.
  • Donate blood
  • Give someone an unexpectedly generous tip
  • Visit a nursing home
  • Share your holiday with someone who doesn’t have any family
  • Reconnect with old friends

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