When you help someone, that person doesn’t just thrive—you do, too!
Whether you’re volunteering your time, donating your money, teaching others how to do something, etc. there’s something you gain in the process. And, while you don’t necessarily choose to help someone because of the impact on you, there are undeniable benefits to helping others—in fact, there are even some scientifically-backed reasons why helping others can improve the quality of (everyone’s!) life.
Here are a few reasons why it’s best to live with a selfless heart:
You Could Potentially Live Longer
Helping others has been shown to increase your lifespan. Research has actually shown that by helping out in somewhere like a soup kitchen, coaching a local baseball team, or even learning about public safety and then putting those new skills into action can help you to live longer.
In fact, people who volunteer on a regular basis were able to improve their immune systems and therefore were less prone to catching diseases or severe illnesses. Some of the reasons are because volunteering prevents loneliness (and loneliness can make the immune system weaker, plus it can cause depression) as well as the fact that during volunteer work you’re more likely to improve your social life and make new connections and/or friends.
You Make A Greater Impact Than You Realize
Another benefit of helping others is that you will usually help more than those you’re in direct contact with—a ripple effect! Altruism – the act of selflessly helping other people – is an act that causes ripple to spread out far and wide. The person or people you are helping will be able to go on to help others, imparting the knowledge they learned from you to ensure other people have more productive, successful lives.
You could also be potentially helping the people who may not know they need help themselves but who are dealing with those who are clearly in need of help. These are people who live with those who need help, for example, such as children and partners. If you are giving someone the help they need, those people will benefit, too.
You’ll Feel Happy
One of the simplest, yet most obvious (and even most important benefits of helping others!) is that these acts of selflessness will make you feel happy. Happiness should not be underrated, and it may surprise you when you stop to think about the last time you were really, truly happy. (It might be a lot longer ago than you thought.)
When you are happy, your hormones are in balance, and you feel more confident, more productive, and your mental health benefits, too. You are more likely to exercise when you are happy and to seek out new things to do. All in all, happiness is something we should all strive for every day, but in a busy world where work always seems to be so important, happiness is difficult to attain.
Unless. . . you are able to help others.
Even if no one else knows what you did, your memory of the act and your pleasure at being able to assist someone—no matter how small the assistance might have been—will make you happy. This heightened sense of wellbeing will help you cope better with negative things that come your way and help you to be more resilient should you need to deal with emergencies and/or problems.
Your Chronic Pain May Be Relieved
If you are suffering from chronic – long-term – pain, it might seem as though there is nothing that can be done for relief. However, the truth is that there are a number of ways that chronic pain can be somewhat soothed (and a few nontraditional ideas!). One of the ideas that might appeal to you when it comes to alleviating chronic pain is helping others. While this is, of course, not a foolproof solution, it is worth noting that when we help others we heal ourselves.
People who are often able to help other people—either through their work or through volunteering in some way—found that their chronic pain was reduced. Although we still don’t know what causes this, it is likely to be to do with the different chemical levels in your body! Helping others helps ourselves (and our bodies!).
Your Blood Pressure Will Lower
Having high blood pressure constantly is bad for you. It can lead to heart problems and other health concerns, including putting you at risk of a stroke. Most of the time, you will be told what you can’t do and what you should give up in order to help your blood pressure lower. . . but did you know that helping others–actively doing something rather than not doing something–can help to reduce your blood pressure, too?
Helping others (and ideally volunteering for at least 200 hours a year) has lowered the blood pressure of many previously at-risk patients. In fact, Carnegie Melon University found that in these patients with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), the blood pressure was reduced by as much as 40 percent!
You Can Create Bonds
People need other people. That basic notion has always been true, and by helping others, you fulfil your innate drive to become connected with people in a constructive way.
Being part of a team of volunteers, or just going out of your way to assist someone, can give your life importance and contribute to a feeling of belonging. Even if these relationships you are forming via your compassion are transient, and even if you never see the people you are helping again, that small spark of human-to-human connection is enough to let you – and them – feel part of something.
This is one of the biggest benefits of helping others: although the moment itself may feel fleeting, the impact is never temporary.
You Can Purge Negative Feelings
Having a positive outlook on life is easier when you’re putting your time and effort into helping others. Why is this important? The fact is, positive thinking counts for a lot more than some people might imagine, and it really can do a good job in changing your perspective – and therefore your life – for the better.
Anger, resentment, and other unpleasant emotions can have a detrimental effect on your mental and physical health. When you are helping others, your generosity with your time (as well as your ability to use your money, skills, and passions with purpose) will keep you busy and positive. This gives less room in your life for any kind of negativity.
You’ll Have A Sense Of Purpose
If you’ve ever felt there is more to life than what you are currently doing, or you feel you are lacking a sense of purpose, deciding to go out and help other people can change everything for you.
When you are helping others, perhaps in a job that deals with public safety or in a volunteer capacity, you will feel a greater sense of self-worth and purpose. And this can change everything! When you have a sense of purpose, you will look for new opportunities to enhance this new feeling.
Perhaps there doesn’t need to be a reason behind someone helping someone else. Maybe it’s just a nice thing to do! But there are definitely benefits to helping other people (for both them and ourselves).
When we take a look at our lives, let’s consider how we can use what we have—whether that’s material things, money, skills, or simply our time and compassion—to improve the lives of others. After all, working together and moving intentionally is what life’s all about.