Everybody wants to be happy. It is a fundamental right.
What if I tell you that the more you value your happiness the less likely you are to feel happy? This is what two studies from the University of Denver have evidenced. Feeling happy seems not to be in relation to your own happiness, but to others’ happiness. What a catch-22!
It is scientifically proven, the secret to happiness is helping others
We have always heard that helping others makes you happier and increases your well-being. You have probably experienced it, and it feels great. When you do good you feel released from stress. It is like a boost of happiness.
Researchers have been using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to explain this phenomenon. By fMRI we can measure brain activity and detect changes associated with blood flow. This technology is based on the knowledge that cerebral blood flow and neuronal activation are coupled. When an area of the brain is in use, blood flow to that region also increases.
The best part is that science has proven it to be true. Helping others stimulates the same areas of the brain that are activated by sex and food.
What do we mean by “doing good”?
Altruism or “doing good” is the practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. In other words, you put other people’s needs before your own.
I have good news for you. You don’t need to do extraordinary things to get the benefits of helping others. But if you can do something big, be more than welcome. The point is that there are many small actions in your daily life that can help others. It is more about your approach to life and your interaction with people around you.
I find it a little bit fake when we say things like “if I win lotto I will give half of the money to charity”. Ok, it is very nice, but what are the chances of someone winning lotto? Close to zero, sorry. On the other hand, we have plenty of chances every day to be nice, to smile or to help with small things. And unfortunately we don’t always take advantage of those opportunities. Small steps bring big difference.
What are the benefits of helping others?
Everybody can enjoy the benefits of helping others. You don’t have to be rich, or have a lot of free time. Let’s do it! Here are some of the benefits.
Is contagious and inspiring
Studies have found that people are more likely to do good after witnessing another do the same. Helping others has a multiplier effect and it is inspiring. A single action of an individual can make a huge difference by starting the chain reaction. Have you heard about the butterfly effect?
Brings happiness to you
According to several sociological studies, people who practice volunteering in a regular basis consider themselves happier than the average. They are also significantly more active, and reported to have experienced reduction of chronic pains. These results are backed up by researches done using fMRI technology.
You can have a longer and healthier life
Activities like volunteering improve your own health, lighten stress and boost your social life. These factors have a very positive effect in our life expectancy. Helping others lowers levels of stress and anxiety, and it can reduce your anger. It is proven to combat depression, because doing good brings you pleasure and harmony.
Improves blood pressure
Other researches have shown that people who have regularly volunteered have 40% less risk of hypertension. This is because volunteers usually have a more active and less stressed life than average people.
Provides sense of purpose and fulfillment, fun and satisfaction
Do you want to find the meaning of your existence? According to some studies, helping others increases your sense of purpose and fulfillment. Volunteers declare that it is fun and an easy way to find new interests and passions. It brings refreshed vision of your own life, and renewed energy together with motivation.
Stimulates self-confidence and positive behaviors
Other interesting conclusion of the researches is that teens who volunteer have higher levels of self-confidence. They usually become a role model for their peers. This improves their image and they even achieve better grades.
It connects you to others
Helping others has a huge impact on the community. Additionally, you can make new friends, improve your network and develop your social skills.
Most of the times, it is easier to connect with people by sharing interests and committing to the same activities. Volunteering is a great way to do so. It makes you feel part of the community.
Can help your career
Do you know that volunteering can be an amazing way to learn very valuable skills? You can gain experience and have the opportunity to practice and train a lot of new abilities. You will have to teamwork, communicate, face problems and solve them, plan activities, and manage situations and people. Right! It is not paid, but it is far from being simple.
All these skills can boost your professional career and open new doors for you.
A couple of things to consider
There are some basic things that you should take into consideration. Not everything is for everybody. You have to find the way of helping others that suits you. Otherwise it will not last long, and you will not feel ok with it.
Dedicate your time
Giving money is ok, but giving your time is great!
I am not saying that money doesn’t help others. What I mean is that not everybody has enough money to help others. But certainly all of us can share our time to do good. What is more, the gift of time is more appreciated than the gift of money. At the end of the day, time is our most precious resource, so sharing it means a lot.
Take into consideration your goals and interests
Keeping others always in mind, you need to think what you want to do. Remember what your goals and interests are. The ideal pairing would be if you are able to match them with opportunities to help others. It is not only about giving, but how much involved we are while doing it.
Enjoy and find your passion
If you are passionate about something, it can be a wonderful approach to help others. If being outside is your passion, you can find someone who can’t go out much and take him/her for a walk. If we enjoy what we do while helping others, it turns out to be effortless. Choose the right way to do it. Fun and sense of purpose are guaranteed!
Be proactive, not reactive
If you are giving just to avoid being pointed, you will never feel good enough with it. You need to be driven by kindness. Remember that helping others comes from inside. It is not about how much or what you give, it is only about being concerned and connecting with people. Follow your inner feelings, and step forward when you are ready.
Most of the times when giving, it feels better if you know exactly what is going to be done with your money. Be proactive and give to organizations with transparent aims.
Care also about yourself
Don’t forget that you are also important. Giving too much of yourself can be overwhelming. Act within you financial possibilities and don’t go beyond your limits. Remember that to help others you’d better be personally engaged, so don’t be ashamed to step back if you feel it is needed.
Small gestures count
Don’t underestimate the power of small acts of kindness. They generate a flow of good feelings, and they can trigger a positive reaction chain. Best things in life are free, and priceless. Smiles, hugs, sharing, listening, caring and supporting people don’t need any money involved.
Donate to people in need all the clothes that you don’t use anymore and old furniture. It will be not only an act of kindness, but also an act of appreciation. You will remember how fortunate you are.
Tell your family and friends how much you love them. Smile, and say hi and thank you to everybody. In case you didn’t notice, the receptionist and the lady who cleans the office is somebody as well. Be a considerate driver. Praise colleagues when they do something well.
If you want to get more involved in helping others, volunteering is a great option. You can find many opportunities to cooperate with national parks, community associations, libraries, service organizations, animal shelters, after-school programs, churches or synagogues.
You will feel great doing it!
Many people are very busy trying to win the Rat Race, in the believing that it will bring happiness. Even so, joy and fulfillment seem to become more and more unattainable. If you know people in such situation, comfort them! They are probably lost and need a helping hand. Share this article with them!
The more you give, the more you receive. It is as simple as that. Let’s lead this positive tendency!