Research shows that helping others – donating our time, skills and dollars to people and causes – not only improves their lives, it improves ours as well. Helping others can be as simple as running an errand for a neighbor, empathizing with a colleague’s issues, or supporting a friend after a hard day. These actions lead to a more positive outlook for all concerned. Here are some of the many ways generosity and happiness are linked.
Gain a fresh perspective. When our own problems feel overwhelming, helping others takes our minds off ourselves and shows us that other people may face even more \daunting challenges. This reframes our issues and increases our gratitude for all the good things we have in our lives.
Give – and get back. When we go out of our way for others, they feel obligated (in a good way) to help us in return. Helping can be as simple offering someone practical advice, or even a smile — and getting a smile in return.
Open new worlds. When we staff a crisis hotline, tutor adults, read to children, or volunteer at a shelter or a nonprofit (Habitat for Humanity, the Red Cross), we meet and form new friendships with people with shared values – not the least of which is helping others. Check out VolunteerMatch for volunteer opportunities in your area.
Learn new skills. A helping role often, especially volunteering, offers opportunities to improve our current skills and learn new ones — another win-win. (Make sure to include any volunteer work on your resume; it’s something HR people value.)
Improve your mental and physical health. Research shows that people who give back have lower blood pressure and fewer illnesses. They also have higher self-esteem, fewer periods of depression and a more positive outlook on life.
Increase your happiness. Studies reveal that even thinking about donating to a cause can promote positive feelings. And the heartfelt thanks we receive when we lighten a friend’s load, offer a shoulder to lean on or step in to help an overburdened colleague is in itself a wonderful reward.
P.S. The positive feelings we experience when we do something good for others has a name. It’s called a “helpers high.” Try it and see if you don’t agree!