5 Bonus Health Benefits of Helping Others

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There are health benefits of helping others. Altruism is when we put the needs of others before our own.  Whether it’s helping an elderly woman carry her groceries, making a cup of tea for your spouse, or building a well in a third world country, Big or Small, helping someone else can make a huge difference in someone’s day, week, or life.

Besides the obvious outcome of making the recipient feel good, helping other people can have a measurable effect on our own well-being too. Both psychological benefits and physical health benefits can be enjoyed when you put others first.

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Over this past year, I’ve made it a point to help at least one person every day.  It truly is rewarding, and I’m noticing improvements in all areas of my life since I’ve started focusing on my own acts of altruism.

Here are 5 health benefits of helping others:

1. Helping others increases happy neurotransmitters.

That happy feeling you get after helping someone is actually a change in the neurotransmitters in your brain.  This rush of emotion is often followed by longer periods of calm and lower levels of overall stress. Helping others improves social support, encourages us to lead a more physically active lifestyle, distracts us from our own problems, allows us to engage in a meaningful activity and improves our self-esteem and competence.

Helping others can increase Dopamine (the reward chemical), the same way that any small task completed can.

Oxytocin and Endorphins can also be increased, depending on how you’re helping and who you are helping too.

2. Helping Others keeps things in perspective.

Helping others in need allows us to see how others’ lives are different from our own, and can give us a fresh perspective of how blessed we actually are. This can allow us to stress less about our own misfortunes and feel better about our current status in life.

Helping other people can also increase our own sense of belonging within our communities.

3. Helping others keeps us from getting sick.

Giving back to the community increases positive feelings and reduces stress, therefore improving our immune systems. Helping and volunteering can also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. When it comes to older folks, those who spent time helping others are much less likely to suffer fast cognitive decline as they age.

4. Helping Others reduces negative feelings

Negative emotions can cause mental and physical distress.  Helping others takes away those negative emotions and allows us to improve our health by having a positive mind. A study was done in October of 2020 of more than 1000 adults. The study found that on the days when people lent a helping hand during the pandemic (remember the wine fairy groups?), either within their personal circles or as part of a larger organization, they reported an increase in positive emotions.

5. Helping Others helps us live longer.

Studies have shown that people who serve others live longer than those who don’t choose to put others before themselves.  Seriously.  Being nice will increase your lifespan!

A 2013 review of 40 international studies showed that volunteering can add years to your life, with some studies even saying that there was a 22% reduction on mortality when comparing senior citizens who volunteered their time to those who did not.

Are there Benefits to Young People Helping Others too?

Many of what I’ve read was based around studies done on older people. But it certainly stands to reason that getting started as a helper earlier in life can only increase all of these benefits, because you’ll be doing it for longer. Sociologists have shown that teenagers who volunteer have better grads and a more positive self image. All of those high schools that force kids to volunteer in order to graduate? They’re doing it for a good reason!

So, Does Helping Others Help Me Too?

If you aren’t engaged in regular acts of altruism, I encourage you to start.  Sign up to volunteer your time and talents to those less fortunate, teach something you know well to those who can use the information, or resolve to be nicer to your co-workers.  I promise that your mind and body will thank you for it!

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