The Healthy Benefits of Helping Others

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It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life…
that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Have you been feeling blue? Stuck in a rut? Feeling useless or without purpose? Some say the key to happiness is helping others. They are not too far from the truth as helping others has many benefits that can improve your quality of life. Altruism is defined as the practice of unselfish concern and action for the welfare of others. Although helping others may sound like a selfless act, there are actual benefits you will receive. Benefits that can counter your own struggles of feeling depressed, overwhelmed or without direction.

Enlighten Your Perspective

Helping others allows you to connect to a greater good and to experience life beyond the partitions of your weekly schedule. This type of connection has exponential power. When you connect to a greater good you are able to enlighten your perspective regarding the world and your own life. This shift in focus will shed new light on the worries and concerns in your own life, possibly lessening the load you feel you have been carrying. As you gain new perspective you can also develop a trifecta of achievement, inspiration and a new sense of purpose.

Increase Your Positive Mood

There are many reasons why helping others can improve the quality of your mood.  Engaging in activities that connect with others in a positive way is energizing. When volunteering or helping on your own will, your mood is invigorated by engaging in the activity solely because you want to. During these activities you may be outside, more active or interacting with animals, all of which are shown to decrease stress and increase dopamine (a feel-good neurotransmitter).

Enrich Your Social Relationships

Volunteering or reaching out to help is a great opportunity to meet new people whether you are shy or outgoing. It is also a great way to strengthen existing relationships by getting involved with a friend or as a family. The experience of helping one person or bonding with others while in support of a cause can foster a sense of purpose and companionship.

Improve Your Health

Research has shown that volunteering can have positive health benefits as well. It can combat depression, decrease stress levels, decrease blood pressure and decrease mortality rates. It is believed that by being active and altruistic you reap physical, emotional and cognitive benefits that enhance your health, happiness and longevity.

Enhance Your Skill Level

Volunteering can provide the opportunity to learn new skills or explore new hobbies or career ideas. If you are interested in helping the elderly, volunteering in a retirement community will provide you exposure to a nursing facility. You may be interested in animal training and volunteer at an animal shelter. If you are interested in becoming a social worker, volunteering at a soup kitchen may be right up your alley.

If you are interested in helping others you don’t have to look very far. It can be as simple as one act of kindness or an active role in volunteering somewhere.

  • You can start small and simple such as checking on an elderly neighbor or offering to help a person you know is having a difficult time.
  • You can get involved in a special event. When the holidays roll around there are a multitude of ways one can get involved to help others. Places often solicit help from volunteers and a request may catch your interest.
  • Consider what your strengths or interests may be and create a list of places where you would like to spend your time.

Therapy Changes Icon Everyone has had moments of helping someone and can easily remember the good feeling they had in return. Anytime is the right time to do a little good and reap the benefits yourself! When you become depressed, without a sense of purpose or wrapped up in your weekly schedule, it is a perfect time to begin reaching outside of life as you know it.

Photo credit: Wonderlane / / CC BY

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