A life with less stress, less risk of developing depression and other chronic illnesses, and more joy. Sound difficult? But it is possible for those who do good. Science proves that doing good, in addition to improving health, can increase life expectancy.
A study by researchers at Harvard University in the United States showed that people with traits compatible with practicing acts of solidarity were up to 50% less likely to suffer from depression, in addition to be less prone to cardiovascular disease.
A survey conducted by the University of Michigan (USA) showed that people who volunteer have, on average, four years longer to live than those who do not.
“We have compelling evidence that volunteer work reduces stress, improves self-esteem and improves mood. We are talking about voluntary work that the person feels good doing, and it can be in any field,” stresses psychiatrist Jairo Navarro.
The doctor explains that there are a number of changes in the immune system of those who help others. “The person has a decrease in pro-inflammatory cytokines, there is an improvement in the levels of norepinephrine and cortisol, which are stress hormones.”
Another benefit for the body brought by the voluntary work highlighted by the psychiatrist is the reduction of the risks of developing chronic diseases.
“This happens because chronic diseases, in general, are due to chronic inflammatory processes. Of course, for the person who already has the disease, they must maintain the recommended treatment”.
Psychiatrist Letícia Mameri points out that one of the most protective things against mental illness is having a purpose. “Volunteering is a way for people to exercise their purpose”.
By helping others, a specific area of the brain is activated, according to psychologist Vanessa Cristina.
“These are the brain areas related to pleasure, feelings of attachment and belonging. Who helps or supports wins more than who is helped. Volunteer work also helps with anxiety, insomnia and headaches. head.
“My goal is to take care of others”
In 2017, dentist Renata Pimentel Araújo, now 48, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Living in Rio de Janeiro, in Niterói, she was treated and sent back to Vitória.
“After having cancer, I felt the need to help even more. I truly believe that God left me here for this purpose: to care for others and share my experience”
Today, Renata is a volunteer at the Santa Rita de Cássia Hospital, at the Association of Women for Education and the Fight Against Cancer (Afecc), as Director of Volunteering.
“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer it had a huge impact. I didn’t think about death, I told myself that I had to take care of myself because I needed to see my children grow up. As soon as I returned to Vitória in 2019, I immediately wanted to volunteer at Afecc and it was love at first sight”.
Once a week, Renata goes to the hospital’s outpatient clinic to receive incoming patients.
“Every day that I go to the hospital, I may not wake up well, but I get there and forget all my problems, I leave renewed, with a heart full of gratitude. Only those who are willing have that feeling. It’s a goal,” he says.
Service of Charity and Hope
example with parents
Also as a child, Espírito Santo dentist Patricia da Costa Gomes, 38, learned the meaning of volunteerism when she went with her parents to places in need to donate. She says she has always had the desire to continue in the field of health to help people in need.
“Since I became a dentist, I have always wanted to serve God with my talent as a form of gratitude for the blessings received by him”.
It was in 2015 that she began to be a volunteer dentist in an NGO in Cariacica. After that, it never stopped: Patricia has already served communities in the Amazon on a boat, she has been to Bahia and Pernambuco.
She currently lives in Houston, Texas, USA, where she is a researcher and has worked in a dental practice inside a non-profit shelter that hosts refugees, as a translator from Spanish to English.