Good Deeds for Good Health
Eric Schneider | My Soul
Did you know that helping others, without expecting anything in return, is actually good for your health? Most of us believe kindness and generosity are virtuous qualities, and we cheer for those who give time, money or emotional support selflessly. We know it feels good to do or witness a good deed, but behind the goodness is a growing mound of science that shows giving is a great thing for the mind, body and soul.
Psychologists have a term for that pleasant feeling you get when you give someone a hand. It’s called a “helper’s high,” and it usually leads to a sense of euphoria that may be accompanied by a surge of energy. The emotional benefits usually don’t end there, though; what follows is commonly a lingering feeling of calmness, a mindset that may keep worries from taking hold. Even if you’re getting nothing tangible from a kind act, you’re soaking up some major emotional perks.
Generosity and similar altruistic pursuits also make their mark on a physical level beyond the general sensation of relaxation. Scientists have determined that acts of goodness are associated with the release of oxytocin – a hormone best known for creating emotional bonds but also linked to heart health. The effect of this cardioprotective compound also extends to reducing harmful free radicals and inflammation in the body, a ripple effect that may reinforce overall wellness and even healthy aging.
Vitality through Volunteering
A 2013 study indicated that American adults who volunteer feel emotionally, mentally and physically healthier than their non-volunteering counterparts. Related findings revealed that being a volunteer helps people to better contend with and lessen stress in their lives, as well as connect with others in their community. Another notable trend pointed out by the study is that volunteers tend to be more conscientious of their wellness and are more proactive in their own health care.
Remarkably, the positive effects of altruism go beyond the giver and the recipient. A recent article pinpointed how kind acts resonate even further when others witness them. Deemed “peak experiences,” these glimpses of compassion — for example, someone helping an injured animal or a child consoling a sad fellow tike — tend to give onlookers a wholehearted feeling of elation, even if they don’t have a direct connection to the situation or are merely watching it on a TV or computer screen.
Kindness clearly resonates, affecting anyone in its positive radius. The downside? Well, there isn’t one, unless you factor in the disappointing realization that there aren’t more moments of generosity in the world. And in those cases, the solution is easy — perform a new, good act of your own. Those around you will benefit, and so will you.