At a Glance: Volunteering can decrease stress levels, help you live longer and quickly boost your mood.
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How can you improve your health? If you ask a doctor they’ll probably tell you to start with a healthy diet and regular exercise. But research shows that there’s another way to boost your physical and mental health — and help others along the way.

Studies have long shown that people who volunteer have improved physical health, higher levels of self-esteem and happiness, and decreased stress and depression.

Here are three more health benefits of giving back that may surprise you:

Increased heart health
A staggering 75 million American adults have high blood pressure — that’s one in every three adults. Though it’s great that volunteering can give you a broader perspective and a deeper sense of personal satisfaction, it may be even better that it can help your ticker. A recent study showed that people who volunteered on a regular basis were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.

Longer life
People who volunteer may live longer than those who don’t, as long as their motivation is to help others instead of helping themselves. Research suggests that the reason a person chooses to volunteer can have an impact on a person’s life span.

Micro-mood boosters
Don’t feel like you have time right now in your life to volunteer? Try giving back by giving out smiles. Not only is it good for others, it’s great for your brain and body. When you smile, the contraction of the face muscles you use releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine into your bloodstream. These mood boosting-neurotransmitters increase happiness and reduce stress, anxiety and even physical pain. Get in the habit of smiling at the stranger in the coffee shop or the driver next to you on the highway. You’ll improve their mood with the small gesture of kindness and you’ll boost your brain and body with happy hormones.

Don’t wait to start giving back. Whether it’s a simple smile or helping out at a local charity event, your brain and body with thank you.

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