Helping Others Can Help You: Health and Personal Benefits of Random Acts of Kindness, Volunteering and Other Forms of Altruism
Random acts of kindness, volunteering and other forms of altruism can have health and personal benefits. Helping others can help boost your spiritual health. It can give you a greater sense of well-being, personal significance and fulfillment in your life.
Even a single act of altruism can have ripple effects on many people. It has direct benefits on the recipient of that altruistic act. In addition, it can give the person helping a “helper’s high” — feelings of pleasure and well-being are often reported by people when they help others. Furthermore, it can even stimulate healthy responses in people observing the altruistic act.
According to The Healing Power of Doing Good (Luks and Payne, 1991), altruism can have powerful health and healing benefits:
* A sense of well-being, exhilaration and euphoria.
* A more positive and happier outlook on life.
* Decreased feeling of helplessness, loneliness and depression.
* Decreased stress as well as a greater sense of calmness, relaxation and serenity.
* A greater sense of connectedness with others.
* Reduction of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular effects.
* Reduction of aches and pains, for example, decreased headaches and back pain as well as relief from arthritis.
* A stronger immune system.
* Faster recovery from surgery.
* Decreased cancer activity.
How does altruism produce these health and healing effects?
Helper’s high, which is often associated with altruism, creates a feel-good sensation as well as a greater sense of self-esteem and well-being. In turn, what is associated with helper’s high is increased production of endorphins in the brain; endorphins are morphine-like substances in our body. In addition to the feeling of bliss that it gives, endorphins also help in the reduction of pain.
Random acts of kindness, volunteering and other forms of altruism can reduce damaging health effects of stressful events in our life. Regular practice of brief and simple acts of kindness has been found to have the greatest effect on well-being.
One of the most challenging tasks we all face is the search for true meaning and purpose in our lives. Without finding our life’s meaning and purpose, it can be very difficult to find joy and satisfaction in what we do and what we have.
When we connect with and enrich the lives of others through altruism, we enrich ourselves — we connect with the very best part of ourselves. In turn, this helps enrich our community. This further magnifies the health and personal benefits of altruism on everyone.