"There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up," said poet John Albert Holmes. He got that right; generosity is an essential nutrient. It fuels the body with good energy and strengthens not just relationships, but the heart, immune system and your desire to be good to yourself, too.
How does generosity benefit the giver? It provides an emotional and physiological buffer against harmful stress triggered by job loss, financial troubles or the death of a loved one, for example. Chronically elevated stress hormones, such as cortisol, raise blood pressure and blood sugar, which may damage blood vessels. They also weaken your immune system and damage neural connections, clouding your memory and judgment. Generosity cools down your mood and body-wide inflammation.
Want to reap the personal benefits of generosity? Start by being more generous to yourself: Set aside 10 minutes a day to meditate; it decreases stress and opens you up to new possibilities in your life. Also, start a walking program with a buddy - you can help each other reach 10,000 steps daily. Then decide to perform a simple act of generosity: Make time to help a neighbor, friend or family member with a daily challenge. It can be as simple as running an errand, cooking a meal, housecleaning or providing transportation or child care. If done frequently, you'll feel stress dissolve and your resolve to live a more generous and healthier life come into focus. That's a "two for you" that makes your RealAge younger.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief medical officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. To live your healthiest, visit sharecare.com. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.