The Science of Service


Mynoa Jacob, Associate Editor

Service has always been regarded as one of the best ways to change your mindset and become happier. “You are happier when you serve others,” sophomore Kate Hymas said, “because you’re not focused on yourself and you can realize how blessed you are.”

And science helps back up this argument. Research has concluded that giving to others actually changes the neural pathways in the brain. Not only is there significant growth in the “reward centers” in the brain (which produce hormones such as dopamine and serotonin), but scientists also found decreased activity in a brain structure called the amygdala, (which is linked to fear or stress). 

A 2018 study by Tristen K. Inagaki, PhD, and Lauren P. Ross, BA, of University of Pittsburgh, revealed that volunteers who gave “targeted support” (meaning help to specific family or friends who were in need) had different MRI scan results than those who gave to charity. Both kinds of support showed increased activity in the ventral striatum and septal area of the brain– which contribute to health and physical wellbeing. But the people who gave targeted support also had reduced amygdala activity.

Sophomore Brynlee Murray agrees with this research. “Yes! [Serving] totally helps you physically! My dad runs a nonprofit and he talks about how when you give to others you are actually giving to yourself. Serving helps you become better in all aspects– physical and mental. Giving to others is just like the gift that keeps on giving– when you serve others you are also helping yourself.”