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last updated October 30, 2020

How helping others keeps you healthy and happy

by Rob Arthur

We can get so caught up in what we do for ourselves in our pursuit of health and happiness.

Yet, it’s often what we do for others that can have some of the greatest impact on our efforts to live our best lives.

Various forms of altruistic behavior, or a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others, promote greater life satisfaction, positive affect, and other benefits associated with well being (1).

Volunteering, for example, might help prevent cognitive aging (2), and is a predictor of better mental and physical health, life satisfaction, self-esteem, and happiness, as well as lower depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and mortality and functional inability (3).

Neuroimaging studies suggest we may even be neurologically wired to derive happiness from giving to others (4).

You don’t have to run off and join a convent or monastery or give away your life’s savings to live a life of altruism, service, and generosity.

You can start by looking for opportunities that meet your life’s circumstances.

What local volunteer groups help those who might benefit most from your time, effort, and unique skills?

What small opportunities do you see each day to extend kindness with nothing expected in return?

What’s laying around your home that you might give to others who might benefit from its use?

To what causes might you allocate some of your disposable income?

You might find resources like Meetup, GiveWell, or even Facebook Events helpful in finding the right opportunities for you.

There’s no need for grand gestures or trying to change the world on your own.

Even what you consider to be the smallest gesture might mean so much more to those you help.

Every dollar you give.

Every second you spend.

Every time you extend a helping hand.

It all counts.

It’s all enough.

You’re enough.

You’ve got this.


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