Could this help reduce your pain?
Most people know that volunteering makes you feel good and helps give you purpose. Altruistic behaviors can reduce stress, improve your mood and improve your health. In the last few years, research has shown it can also help you cope with pain.
In 2017 a study found that volunteering can actually help reduce pain and give a renewed sense of purpose in patients who suffer from chronic pain.
“Volunteering or good deeds will inevitably result in improved mood for people, when mood is improved, it’s well understood that pain levels decrease,” Dr. Rian Rowles, a psychiatrist associated with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, IL, says. “Depression, which is of course a disorder of mood, is known to increase pain levels, so the reverse is also true when mood is elevated.”
What we didn’t know until now was why that pain is reduced. A new series of studies published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that after individuals performed altruistic actions, brain activity in the areas that respond to a painful simulation was instantly and significantly reduced.
The researchers also found that the level of pain the brain receives is positively correlated with the meaning people give to their altruistic behavior.
With so many encouraging results, now may be the time for you to consider giving back. Just be sure it’s something you really want to do.
“The best way to incorporate it into one’s lifestyle is to not force it,” Dr. Rowles says. “You need to feel comfortable volunteering, it’s not something you want to feel forced into or it may not have the same positive effects.”
About the Author
Amy Eiduke, health enews contributor, is a public affairs manager at Advocate Aurora Health. She has nearly 20 years of communications, marketing and foundation experience and has worked with a variety of industries including real estate, insurance and consulting. She likes to spend her time volunteering with Special Spaces creating dream bedrooms for children with cancer.