Helping others is the first step in making the world a better place and improving the lives of those who aren’t as lucky as you. But it’s also shown to bring about a wealth of benefits for those who choose to help and might just be the key to happiness!
Studies in recent years on the impacts of volunteering have shown a range of physical and psychological benefits that result from helping others, without needing any trips to the doctor. It helps to create stronger communities that are concerned with the well-being of each and every individual as you work towards a happier society for all.
It might be assisting your friends and family while expecting nothing in return or extending help to a complete stranger on the other side of the world. Being kind and caring towards others is also infectious and can quickly inspire others to do the same. But if you don’t get the ball rolling, then who will?
Helping others feels good
When you break it all down, helping others just feels good! Volunteers have described what they refer to as a “helpers’ high”, feeling a sense of euphoria after giving of their time to help others. It’s believed to be a release of endorphins that is followed by a longer lasting period of calm and emotional wellbeing that helps to reduce stress levels. Studies show that the same parts of the brain are invigorated when we give to good causes as are stimulated when we receive money ourselves.
Knowing that you are helping to make the world a better place and giving hope to those who might not otherwise have it is undeniably rewarding and the good vibes won’t cost you a thing!
Find your happiness
Research has shown that there are strong correlations between helping others and happiness and that those who are happy are more likely to be inclined towards assisting others. Numerous studies have documented the effects of helping others on people of all ages, from preschoolers to high school students and working professionals. Because giving makes us happier and happiness makes us give more, it’s a never-ending cycle of feel-good virtue!
Volunteering is a social activity (and humans have evolved as highly social creatures), so it makes sense that having an excuse to be around others should bring you happiness. Some researchers think that helping others gives individuals a neuro-chemical sense of reward that boosts their mental wellbeing. Altruistic people are more likely to create strong connections in their community and extended networks, which inevitably impacts their feelings of happiness.
It’s not about wealth
An interesting result from studies into helping others was that volunteering related to increased happiness, regardless of the socio-economic situation of the individual. People who gave money to charitable causes (rather than spending money on themselves) were found to be happier, no matter what their income levels.
But helping others doesn’t’ have to be about giving money. It can also be about giving of your time through organized volunteering projects or just a kind gesture to a stranger without any expected rewards. These often mean even more than financial gifts as they require you to actively engage with the person you are helping on a one-to-one level.
Helping others is contagious
When someone around you performs a good deed, it’s hard not to want to be involved. When you see the happiness it brings them and those around them, it’s only natural that you will want to catch a dose of their altruistic behavior. Studies have confirmed this, with people more likely to perform generous acts after observing someone else doing the same. This means that it only takes one individual to start the domino effect of inspiring people to help others.
Improved happiness as a result of volunteering also leads to reduced depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. When you feel good about what you are doing to help others, you will also feel better about yourself. Studies have shown that offering help has a stronger positive impact on mental health than if you are receiving help while creating a community environment that reduces feelings of isolation. Volunteering might also help to distract you from problems in your own life or put them in perspective in the big scheme of things.
Studies show that active volunteering can increase our lifespan, with older people who support others shown to live longer than those who don’t. It helps to maintain cognitive functioning in older people while increasing educational achievements in the youth. Those who help others are often better at managing their stress levels (which in turn can help to lower blood pressure) and enjoy an increased sense of life satisfaction that helps to stave off illnesses and depression. It might not seem obvious, but an active social life can significantly impact our long-term health.
Find a sense of purpose
If you’re struggling to find meaning in life or feeling cynical about your day-to-day existence, helping others could be the answer. Studies show that volunteering can enhance your sense of purpose and help you find meaning in life.
For those who have recently retired or their children have moved out of home, helping others can assist in reestablishing their identity. While their focus may have been on raising a family or saving for the future, they may now have time available to help others and work towards the greater good of the world.
But that’s not to say you have to wait until later in life to start helping others. If you’re not sure what you want to do in the future or don’t have a firm career path, volunteering can help you to establish what’s really important in life and will bring your long-term job satisfaction. It might offer opportunities not available through your school or college and the chance to see a bit of the world before you settle into a career.
Volunteering is often a life-altering experience and one that shouldn’t be missed, so be the change you want to see in the world.