How giving affects your health
Photo: Stephen Lewis
It's The Thought That Counts

Simply contemplating generosity boosts your immunity. When Harvard students watched a film about Mother Teresa tending to orphans, the number of protective antibodies in their saliva surged; when the students were asked to focus on times when they'd been loved by or loving to others, their antibody levels stayed elevated for an hour. In another study, the brain's pleasure centers lit up when people made check marks next to a list of organizations to which they wanted to donate.

Lend an Ear, Help Your Heart

Being generous with your attention can reduce your risk of heart attack. Cardiac arrest is highly correlated with the amount of self-reference ("I," "me," "my") in a person's speech. The best advice? Listen to and connect with others—social ties lower your risk of dying from heart disease.

Lend a Hand, Lower Your Pain

People suffering from chronic pain report decreased intensity, and less disability and depression, when they reach out to others in similar pain. In one study, pain was reduced by 13 percent. Scientists believe the release of endorphins explains the phenomenon.

Goodness Nose

In a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University, people who were socially connected reported catching fewer colds. Volunteering is, of course, one of the simplest ways to connect.