Getting Happier By Helping

This is a great time of year for giving to the community. The Salvation Army folks are ringing bells at Fred Meyer, food banks are gathering donations of canned goods, and the Boy Scouts are helping out at the Christmas tree lot. The Christmas spirit is the spirit of giving – although we have kind of turned it into a spirit of getting in many cases. Well, guess what? Your mom was right. It really is better to give than to receive. Better for your health, in fact.

Studies have been done about the positive effect on our health when we help others. Doing good deeds helps you live longer, by reducing stress and helping create stronger social bonds. Volunteering and helping others in a hands-on way (not just writing a check, or dropping off a load of old clothes) is good for your health.

Personally, I love doing small things that will surprise a total stranger. I have been known to pay the bridge toll for the car behind me, and once picked up the tab for the food order of a police car that was behind me in the drive-through at Taco Bell. Usually I am long gone before they realize what just happened. Sometimes the gift is an encouraging word to a young mom struggling with a screaming baby at the grocery-store checkout, or a smile to someone who looks like they could use one.

The idea of helping others sounds like the “others” are getting all the benefit, and the giver is doing all the work, but that is not the whole story, or even the right story. It feels good to help. It boosts “happy” brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, according to information in the articles linked at the end of this post. Helping others is part of our social evolution. It’s part of what makes us human.

What you give is yours to keep, and what you fail to give is gone forever. That’s not mine, I think it was on one of my old Tony Robbins audio programs – and I’m paraphrasing, since I can’t seem to find it on-line and no longer have a cassette player. Yes, it is from that long ago. It stuck in my mind because there is such a great kernel of truth in it.

Look for ways to help the people around you, and not just because it’s close to Christmas. The happiness you create will be your own.

Click here to read the Upwave article about the benefits of helping others.

Click here to read the article at WebMD called “The Science of Good Deeds”.

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