The power of a smile: what helping others does for you

It’s amazing what volunteering can do — not just for the people receiving your help but also for you! Research shows that helping others can provide a boost to your own mental, oral and physical health.

Mental health

Scientists say that the act of giving boosts production of three brain chemicals — dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin (sometimes called the “happiness trifecta”). Increasing these brain chemicals can improve your mood. In addition, volunteering provides a sense of purpose and appreciation. Studies show volunteering lowers your risk of depression by increasing interaction with others and building a support system.

Oral and overall heath

While there is little research directly linking volunteerism and oral health, there’s plenty of evidence suggesting it can help. That’s because the oxytocin released in your body when you volunteer combats cortisol, your body’s main stress hormone. By managing and lowering your stress, you can also reduce the likelihood of oral health problems, ranging from mouth sores to teeth grinding and tooth decay.

Physical health

Volunteering can help you stay physically active and socially connected. Research shows it can reduce the risk of high blood pressure among older adults.1 That, in turn, lowers the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Volunteering can also decrease pain among those with chronic or serious illness — and may even lead to a longer life, according to several studies.

There's no better way to share a smile than to lend a hand. Helping others can make a difference in your health and well-being. So start today by sharing your time or money, donating food or clothing, or helping a family member, neighbor or friend.