The Benefits of Helping Others
By: Margaret MacMillan
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” – Abraham Lincoln
It’s probably safe to say that most of us don’t help others specifically to help ourselves. More likely than not, we’re not thinking about ourselves at all. More to the point, our thoughts are probably solely with the person or people we are trying to assist. The remarkable thing about extending a hand in a helpful way is that we also reap rewards from it, rewards that are made even more valuable because we weren’t expecting them.
The benefits we receive from helping others arrive as gifts that improve both our physical and mental health. Science backs this up: “Studies indicate that the very act of giving back to the community boosts your happiness, health, and sense of wellbeing,” according to mental_floss. Let’s take a look at ten benefits we gain when we give back.
A Change in Perspective
We may not realize how good things are for us until we discover how bad they are for someone else. When we understand someone else’s situation, we can better understand our own and perhaps see it differently. As a result, we may realize what is positive about our situation and appreciate it more.
We all have problems. Some are more serious than others and their effect must never be ignored. However, taking a break from them to help a friend or family member, or volunteer in the community, eases the worry for a while. Understanding other’s problems may also help us understand ours better so that we can find solutions for them.
A Boost in Self-esteem
Making a positive difference in someone else’s life improves our opinion of ourselves. Although we probably already know we’re kind and caring, helping someone else is a tangible way of making the world a better place and gives us a sense of fulfillment other activities can’t.
Giving resources or time to those who need it makes us happy. The benefit of treating ourselves by spending money on ourselves is short-lived. Giving that same money to someone else, or to a cause, creates abiding satisfaction and happiness, and volunteering can increase our sense of well-being.
At some time or other, most of us feel worn down and stressed. The condition could even become pervasive. Giving back through charitable work can actually lower our stress levels. People have commented that volunteer work makes them feel peaceful and calm.
There is a certain perspective that comes with helping others. It helps us look at our lives more honestly. For that reason, we are more apt to acknowledge what is positive and feel grateful for it.
By volunteering on a regular basis, whether it be reading to sick children in hospitals or helping to stock food banks, we can improve aspects of our health that will extend our lifespan. Not only does giving back help us better manage stress, it also increases our sense of satisfaction. As well, volunteering can enhance our social life and decrease loneliness, especially in older adults.
More Good Deeds
Good deeds beget good deeds. That’s right, being philanthropic can be catching. When someone witnesses someone else being charitable, it encourages them to be the same. Also, when someone is helped in a positive way, that person wants to give the same benefit to someone else.
A Positive Outlook
Sometimes, especially when our heads are filled with our own fears and worries, the world can seem a little bleak. Impacting someone else’s life in a positive manner can change the way we see the world. Things will become clearer and our attitude will become more positive. Acts of kindness improve our mood and our outlook.
Fear takes up too much of our time. Being afraid of what’s around the corner or of what might happen if we take action is a useless pastime. All it accomplishes is more fear. On the other hand, jumping in and helping shows us we can make a positive difference and rewards us with confidence and fulfillment. In short, helping others gives us a sense of empowerment.
Even though we don’t approach giving of ourselves to improve the lives of others as an act that will benefit us, it will. Don’t worry. There isn’t anything selfish about that. The benefits bestowed on us from helping benefit others as well and increase our strength so we can continue to give back with joy and humility.