Helen Keller once said, “The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.” Altruism, volunteering, and humanitarian efforts are associated with greater well-being, health, longevity, and contentment. Generous behaviors, such as giving to charities, activates areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust. Studies with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown that altruistic and generous choices are correlated with functional activity of the temporo-parietal junction and ventral striatum in the brain. This promotes changes in the brain linked to happiness. And some scientists posit that altruistic behaviors release endorphins in the brain that they call “helper’s high,” which helps people continue with giving back. Experimental studies have shown that those who have spent money on others reported higher levels of happiness compared to those who only spent on themselves. This may be driven by a positive emotion called intrinsic warm glow, which is the experience of joy for giving or a moral satisfaction of helping others.

Aside from the emotional health benefits of humanitarian work, there are also physical and mental health benefits, such as longevity, reduced inflammation, reduced blood pressure, decreased stress, and decreased symptoms of depression.

A study at the University of California, Berkeley showed that elderly people who volunteer for two or more organizations were forty-four percent less likely to die over a five-year period than non-volunteers. This study controlled for age, exercise, overall health, and smoking.

The University of Michigan showed that elderly couples who provided practical help or emotional support to friends, relatives, neighbors, spouses had a lower risk of dying over a five-year period compared to those who did not.

In a study at the University of Tennessee, participants who provided social support to others had lower blood pressure than those who did not. Social support improves social networks which promotes self-esteem.

One reason that helping others may improve health outcomes and increase longevity is because it reduces stress. And stress is the root cause of many health problems. Helping others also elicits the feelings of gratitude both on the receiving end and for those giving. Cultivating gratitude for oneself and within others enables realistic optimism, and strengthens our sense of connection. Gratitude helps us to focus on what’s going right instead of only looking at what’s gone wrong. (Check out our article dedicated to gratitude).

The feeling gained from giving is linked to euphoria and warmth from the release of oxytocin, which causes one to feel more empathy towards others. When we volunteer, gift, partake in humanitarian work, and help people, our actions encourage generous behaviors in others. Giving becomes contagious. This within itself leaves a positive impact on society.

We encourage you all to find a cause that is important for you or aligns with your values. Dedicate some time or contribution to their efforts. Give back. It will come back in more ways than one for your own well-being.

Charity and community service has always been one of the foundations of the teachings of M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi®, the School of Islamic Sufism®, (where the Tamarkoz Method of Meditation comes from). MTO Shahmaghsoudi students volunteer time and resources to helping the homeless population, hosting food and clothing and toy drives for the under-served population. In response to COVID-19, MTO Charity took immediate global action with students of MTO Shahmaghsoudi in supporting critical care and support organizations such as hospitals, care homes, nonprofit organizations and other members of our local communities with donations of personal protective equipment (PPE), food, and other essential supplies in the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

During the two years of COVID-19 pandemic, including the lock-down, all of the instructors on the Tamarkoz App, volunteered in providing eight to ten Tamarkoz sessions every day in eleven different languages. This was provided through social media platforms so that the practice could be accessible to anyone around the world, without having the Tamarkoz App. During that distressing and unknown time, people around the world were experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression. So we offered free Tamarkoz sessions to bring comfort, solace, relaxation, stability, and calm to people’s mind, body, spirit.

With all that is happening in the world from natural disasters to human-made crises, it is necessary to give back within one’s means. This does not have to mean traveling to a war zone. Humanitarian efforts to help alleviate human suffering and maintain human dignity can occur locally. For example, donating needed supplies or volunteering at a homeless shelter, a nursing home, a hospital, or a place that serves underprivileged children.

It’s important to note that the benefits of charity can vary based on individual motivations, the nature of the charitable activity, and personal circumstances. However, the scientific evidence indicates that engaging in charitable acts can have a positive impact on both the giver and the recipients, contributing to individual and societal well-being. To quote Kofi Annan, “If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever.”


  1. Park SQ, Kahnt T, Dogan A, Strang S, Fehr E, Tobler PN. A neural link between generosity and happiness. Nat Commun. 2017 Jul 11;8:15964. doi: 10.1038/ncomms15964. PMID: 28696410; PMCID: PMC5508200.
  2. Suitte, J., & Marsh, J. (2010, December 13). 5 ways giving is good for you. Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved December 24, 2023, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you.
  3. Nelson-Coffey SK, Fritz MM, Lyubomirsky S, Cole SW. Kindness in the blood: A randomized controlled trial of the gene regulatory impact of prosocial behavior. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Jul;81:8-13. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.03.025. Epub 2017 Mar 31. PMID: 28395185.