happiness & compassion: two sides of the same coin

Updated: Jan 4

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘what goes around, comes around’ before. But did you know there’s scientific evidence to back this claim up? Years of research focused on the benefits of giving back have resulted in a very clear answer: “a loving and helpful life is more likely to be a happier, healthier, longer one.” 1

Researchers have found many quantifiable benefits that are linked to giving back, in its many different forms. The bottom line is, if you positively contribute to the lives of others, you’re very likely to experience a happier existence. We’re going to take a look at how giving back can not only help others, but help you, too—read on to learn about four of the largest benefits that come from doing good.

the scientific benefits of doing good

less anxiety and stress

Giving back has been found to lower anxiety and stress levels, according to a 2010 survey. The survey found that 73% of volunteers reported that it “lowers my stress levels,” and even further, 89% claimed that volunteering “has improved my sense of well-being.” The survey also assessed seniors in particular, and found that seniors who volunteer are “significantly less likely to experience negative sentiments like anxiety, helplessness, and hopelessness.” 2 Volunteering is the perfect way to give back, and it’s clear that it brings you greater peace of mind, too.

improves your health

In the same survey, 68% of volunteers agreed that volunteering made them feel physically healthier. Amazingly, this claim is backed up by scientific evidence—for example, one study conducted with Vancouver high school students found lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol, as well as lower body mass indexes in the students who volunteered. 3 These levels are biological markers that, when elevated, indicate the first signs of cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, the volunteers who reported the highest increases in empathy, altruistic behavior, and overall mental health also saw the greatest decreases in those biological markers.

That’s not the only evidence out there that doing good literally makes you feel good…another 2013 study monitored the blood pressure of older adults who did and did not volunteer. They found that the subjects who volunteered an average of four hours a week were 40% less likely to have developed hypertension than non-volunteers. 4 High blood pressure can lead to several different medical conditions, or even death, so if you’re not giving back already, now’s the time to start. If not for others' sake, do it for your own health!

helps reduce burnout

Healthcare professionals often experience burnout due to the intense and demanding nature of their profession. One study focused on the burnout of health professionals surveyed a group who volunteered to go on two-week medical trips to South America. The medical professionals, after volunteering, scored lower on burnout scales after their return, and their scores continued to improve at the six-month follow-up survey. 5 If you’re feeling overwhelmed, apathetic, and well, just burned out, consider looking into some ways you can get out there and safely help others. It may just be the key to getting you feeling more energetic, enthused, and happy for the long term.

improves your wellbeing and overall sense of purpose

The overwhelming majority of volunteers who participated in the same 2010 survey concluded that volunteering deepened their well-being and sense of purpose in life. 85% of the volunteers agreed that they’ve learned valuable things about themselves through volunteering, and 77% said that volunteering improves their overall emotional health. 2 Giving back is the perfect way to find a deeper sense of purpose in life, and it greatly improves your emotional and physical wellbeing, too.

There are even more benefits that surround giving back, from helping to develop your career or improving your ability to cope with chronic illnesses, to helping you recover from loss and disappointment. No matter what may be ailing you, try taking some time to help others, and you are guaranteed to help yourself, too.

This concept is one of our core beliefs, and it is at the heart of karuna’s mission—our individual and collective experiences cannot be separated from each other. When you relieve the suffering of another, you, in turn, relieve your own internal suffering. That's why our mission is to spread happiness in 360 degrees—we help individuals find their happiness, while also empowering marginalized populations who have suffered unspeakable tragedies in their lives.

If you’re ready to find true happiness while sharing that joy with others in need, become a karuna warrior today. No matter what you’re going through, the completely free reimagine happiness™ community is here to help. Join a vibrant network of karuna warriors while uncovering the transformational tools and resources we have waiting for you. It's time to start your personal happiness journey. See you there!

happiness lives here™ welcome home


1 Post, Stephen G. n.d., IT’S GOOD TO BE GOOD: 2014 BIENNIAL SCIENTIFIC REPORT ON HEALTH, HAPPINESS, LONGEVITY, AND HELPING OTHERS. https://unlimitedloveinstitute.org/downloads/ITS-GOOD-TO-BE-GOOD-2014-Biennial-Scientific-Report-On-Health-Happiness-Longevity-And-Helping-Others.pdf

2 “UnitedHealthcare / VolunteerMatch, Do Good Live Well Study, Reviewing the Benefits of Volunteering.” March 2010, cdn.volunteermatch.org/www/about/UnitedHealthcare_VolunteerMatch_Do_Good_Live_Well_Study.pdf.

3 Schreier HMC, Schonert-Reichl KA, Chen E. Effect of Volunteering on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adolescents: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA Pediatr. 2013;167(4):327–332. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.1100

4 Sneed, Rodlescia S, and Sheldon Cohen. “A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults.” Psychology and aging vol. 28,2 (2013): 578-86. doi:10.1037/a0032718

5 Clark Campbell, Donell Campbell, David Krier, Ryan Kuehlthau, Todd Hilmes & Melissa Stromberger (2009) Reduction in burnout may be a benefit for short-term medical mission volunteers, Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12:7, 627-637, DOI: 10.1080/13674670903124541