Around the holiday season, we often hear that it’s better to give than to receive. But did you know that there is some scientific truth to this? It’s easy to feel as though we’re too busy or stressed to help others, but research shows that giving back to others is helpful for our own mental wellbeing. Helping others has been shown to not only reduce stress, but to even improve our physical health.
Being altruistic doesn’t have to be complicated or even take up your time during the week. Making a co-worker a cup of coffee, helping a pregnant woman carry her groceries, or even holding the door for a stranger all can have positive effects on our wellbeing. Small acts make a big difference and can improve our self-esteem and overall happiness.
Benefits to Mental Health
Helping others creates physiological changes in our brain that are linked to happiness. These changes also help us to be more calm overall. Additionally, helping others has been linked to a more physically active lifestyle and improve our social support. Having a supportive social network gives us an added boost by giving us a feeling of belonging, helping us to reduce loneliness and feelings of isolation.
Giving back and helping others provides a sense of perspective. You may gain a more positive outlook on life or be able to put your stressors in perspective if you are serving those who are less fortunate than yourself.
Acts of kindness are contagious and make the world a better place to live in. If others see you volunteering, giving, or even doing a random act of kindness, they may be inspired to do a good deed themselves, making our communities more positive.
Benefits to Physical Health
The physical benefits of doing things of others are plentiful. When we help others, the associated positive emotions help us reduce our own stress, gives our immune system a boost, which can help protect us against illnesses. It can also help us rid ourselves of negative emotions such as anger, which can affect us physically.
Studies have shown that giving and helping others can increase our lifespan. Older people who give back often live longer than those who do not.
Where to Start
It’s important to give back in ways that you’ll enjoy. If you love to cook, you can help take meals to families who just had a baby, or those recovering from a surgery. Love to shop? Take an elderly neighbor out to shop for new clothes or groceries. If you’re doing something you truly love, helping others won’t feel like a chore.
There are a few different ways you can begin to give back:
Being a mentor to your peers or to children is a great way to give back. Mentoring may be as simple as providing a listening ear, or it may be offering advice and sharing knowledge or emotional help. Consider mentoring young adults as they adjust to college, a friend struggling with big life changes, or even social support to older adults who may be isolated from traditional communities.
Volunteering is great for improving our self-esteem and wellbeing. There are many different ways you can volunteer. Some ideas include being active in a charity that’s important to you, being a member of your neighborhood watch, helping with a community garden, or helping those in crisis after a flood or fire. You could even consider completing a short-term trip abroad to help those in developing countries.
Supporting a Cause
There are many ways to support causes that are important to you. Take small steps by following your chosen charity’s social media accounts and sharing their content to help spread awareness. You can also help with fundraising events or raise money through sport events, such as a 5k (another physical health boost!).
Acts of Kindness
Random acts of kindness are one of the easiest ways to give back if you don’t know where to start. You can make a goal of doing one act a week, or even one act a day. Simple acts in your home and community could be sending random notes of encouragement, helping with chores or babysitting, doing yard work for an elderly neighbor, or checking on someone going through a tough time.
In the office, you can provide a listening ear to a co-worker having a bad day, treat your co-workers to homemade baked goods, or clean out that coffee maker that never gets a good scrubbing.
Remember, keep yourself in mind as well. Overdoing it can actually have reverse effects on your health. Giving back should not drain you, it should fill you up!