20 Feb Happiness…what we get when we give
If you do a nice thing for someone else knowing you’ll reap some benefit yourself, is it still a good deed? What if your primary reason for doing it is because of the benefits it’ll bring you?
Researchers spend a lot of time debating whether any altruistic act is ever truly selfless because we benefit so much when we are kind to others. I think of kindness like laughter: we might be laughing because we want someone else to feel good about their joke, but mostly we laugh because it feels good. Like laughter, kindness is a terrific happiness habit, good for both our physical and emotional well-being.
Did you know that kinder people actually live longer, healthier lives? People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44 percent lower likelihood of dying_ã”and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status, and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church; it means that volunteering is nearly as beneficial to our health as quitting smoking!
We feel so good when we give because we get what researchers call a “helpers high,” or a distinct physical sensation associated with helping. About half of participants in one study report that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth. This is probably a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high: for example, the act of making a financial donation triggers the reward center in our brains that is responsible for dopamine-mediated euphoria. (For more on the “helper’s high,” check out this essay by James Baraz and Shoshana Alexander, published this month on Greater Good.)
Finally, nearest and dearest to my heart, kindness makes us happy…
…read more about kindness and happiness – just click here