It’s Official: Doing Good is Good for You

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Civic Duty co-founders Julian Omidi and his brother Dr. Michael Omidi respond to recent studies indicating that acts of selflessness and philanthropy are a benefit to one’s physical health.

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Acts of charity and the delivery of altruistic love not only cause feelings of beneficence and unity, but also trigger a neurological response thought to extend the life of the altruist, according to a recent study by Steven G. Post, Ph.D., the Professor of Preventive Medicine and Founding Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

“When we involve ourselves in acts of philanthropy, whether it is doing charity work or performing a selfless act for a friend or even a stranger, we feel good -- not only emotionally, but also physically,” says Julian Omidi, co-founder of Civic Duty. “Our daily stressors are supplanted by the joy we feel from work we do for the good of others, and this occurrence seems to be a physiological event that has enduring health benefits.”

There have been many studies on the emotional effects of philanthropy beginning more than 50 years ago. In 1956, a Cornell University study followed 427 married women with children and discovered that the women who participated in charity events and volunteer activities were significantly less likely to suffer from a major physical illness through the course of their lifetimes. While the exact combination of events leading to what is known as “Helper’s High” have yet to be identified, it is believed that the physical response that causes mood elevation leads the body to protect itself against cellular damage.

The “Helper’s High” phenomenon postulated by Professor Post offers a health benefit that seems to surpass even exercising four times per week, something that has been shown to elevate mood and increase longevity. However, personal involvement is the key; working with people and actually participating in the charitable act triggers positive feelings and elevated mood, while passive participation, such as donating money, doesn’t offer the same physiological response.

According to Julian Omidi, “Many people feel as though they simply don’t have the time or energy to for volunteer work, and that simply writing a check or making a donation will suffice. While donations are obviously very important, we at Civic Duty also encourage people to get ‘hands on,’ and actually take the time to go down to a shelter or any nonprofit, since the work itself will help alleviate whatever stress and anxiety one might feel about typical daily life in a way that dispassionately writing a check cannot.”

Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. (http://www.stephengpost.com) is the best-selling author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping (2011) and coauthor of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving (2008). He speaks widely on themes of benevolent love and compassionate care at the interface of science, health, spirituality, and philanthropy. His work has been featured in periodicals such as Parade Magazine and O: The Oprah Magazine, and on television shows such as The Daily Show, John Stossel, 20/20, and Nightline.

Civic Duty (http://www.civicduty.org) is dedicated to mankind’s search for meaning and promotes the values of its founders, philanthropists Julian Omidi and his brother Dr. Michael Omidi. The charity’s mission is to inspire creative outreach, community service, and volunteerism through the stories of every-day people who are making an extraordinary difference in the world. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men.” To get involved and help make a difference, send us a message using the website’s Contact Us function. More information about Civic Duty can be found on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter.

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