Words by Smiley Team
Here’s a cheerful one in the name of science: researchers have proven that helping others can make you age happier.
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, found that people who donate to charity and do nice things for others see an increase in their production of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a mood-enhancing hormone connected to things such as reproduction that was long thought to decrease as a person ages.
Now the study has shown that the body can potentially keep producing the hormone at older ages, by helping others and feeling good about yourself.
“What was surprising… was the strength of the relationship [between doing good acts and releasing more oxytocin]," said Paul J Zak, a study author and the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies.
“It is so strong in older people, it’s really one of the most ‘wow’ and bullet-proof [results] I’ve seen in 20 years of being in the lab."
The research is revolutionary as it is the first time the connection has been seen in older people. Past scientific studies have also found that happier people typically have longer lifespans and are healthier.
So, should we all rush out to donate to our local food bank, sign up for a charity run and offer to do a neighbour’s gardening? Maybe.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to help boost your oxytocin levels, as well as helping for the sake of doing some good, Smiley News has some suggestions.
Something that takes no time at all but can make a huge impact, is making a donation to a charity or organisation of choice.
Not everyone has the capacity to do so, but if you do there are plenty of options including those on Smiley News’ interactive map of charities.
If you’re someone who needs to go that step further, why not sign up for a charity walk or do your own sponsored event, taking on whatever kind of challenge you want whilst raising money for a good cause.
One of the most common ways that people are able to help others across the country and beyond, is to volunteer.
Volunteering takes many forms, from official volunteer positions at registered charities, to deciding to go out with a bin bag and a litter picker in your local area.
There’s no end to the opportunities available, and there are plenty of sites including the UK Government website where volunteer positions can be found. Or, head to a charity website of your choice and it will likely have information about volunteering opportunities at that time.
Helping others doesn’t always have to look like a grand, charitable gesture from the outside.
It can also just be supporting your friends, family, co-workers, neighbours or even strangers you encounter who might need your help.
You have the ability to lend an ear for anyone struggling, to offer advice when it’s asked for, and to make someone’s day with a little gesture like a present, a cup of tea, or offering to do something for them.