We’re back again and this week we are paying attention to all things altruistic. What does that mean? It means the power of doing good in the world when we engage in acts of empathy and compassion and service and altruism. When we do these things, they flood our brains with chemicals that make us healthier and that make us happier and more connected to other people in the world.
There’s a huge body of research which shows that when we help others (obviously) it helps and makes a difference for them. But the kicker is the dramatic impact it has on our own well-being, as well.
People who volunteer on a regular basis are 15 times less likely to develop a major illness than those who don’t volunteer. And, people who volunteer on a regular basis are 44% less likely to die from any cause than those who don’t volunteer.
Also, people with more consistent positive emotions and states, meaning those who really focus on experiencing positive mindset (and service to and meaningful connection with others certainly fits the bill for that) tend to live up to 10 years longer than those who don’t. A decade longer. A decade healthier. A decade happier. So, we’re talking major impacts.
The very act of doing something kind for others boosts our immune system, and it doesn’t have to be huge or heroic acts of service—it can be the simplest of human connections, like a hug when someone is feeling down or a simple act service when somebody’s experiencing a tough day. It’s certainly nice to go above and beyond when those kinds of things are called for (and when we have capacity to do that), but even the small things have far more power than you might think.
Helping acts reduce the adrenaline and cortisol, in our bloodstream, they release a flood of neurotransmitters like dopamine and endorphins, and even morphine-like substances that naturally occur in the brain and body that help reduce pain and increase feelings of joy, bliss, and well-being. And that’s just from making a positive difference in the world! There is no downside to doing kind positive acts for others if they’re done willingly and joyfully. One caveat, though. Doing acts of service out of the feeling that you need to doesn’t have the same positive impact. So, when you do it grudgingly, it doesn’t really improve your life and your well-being…and likely has a negative impact.
The act of just simply writing a check to a cause is nice, but not as powerful as personal action. Now, let me clarify that I’m a BIG fan of supporting the causes that we love, financially and in other ways, but the act of simply writing a check has less of an impact on your health and happiness than interacting one-on-one. Patting someone on the shoulder, giving them a hug, giving them a helping hand or a hand up. These things benefit all of us in profound ways.
This week, think about those positive connections with other human beings as one of the ways that you can enjoy the “Helper’s High.” Yep, that’s right, the “Helper’s High” is a real phenomenon–we feel good when we do good. So, find one way this week to experiment with doing good and feeling good in the process. Absolutely everyone wins when you do.
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