How Helping Others Helps Ourselves

How Helping Others Helps Ourselves
How Helping Others Helps Ourselves
Did you know helping others has been shown to make us feel better about ourselves? Many researchers have found that when you have a purpose beyond yourself, you not only improve the life of others, but you can improve your physical and mental health! Why?

Can you believe December is already here?! What a unique month December is.

Winter activities are starting up, holiday preparations are underway, and the streets are glowing with lights! At first glance, many may consider this month one of joy and excitement.

However, we recognize that this may not always be the case. Between the kick-off of exam season and the growing list of obligations, stress and anxiety may run high in some of us this time of year. 

However you may be feeling, we are here to offer guidance on how to promote (or maintain) a state of happiness. 

Unlike many of our other tips, this month’s suggestion is less about what you can do for yourself, and more about what you can do for others.

Did you know helping others has been shown to make us feel better about ourselves? Many researchers have found that when you have a purpose beyond yourself, you not only improve the life of others, but you can improve your physical and mental health!  Why?

Promotes happiness

  • A study run at Harvard found that those who gave money to a charitable organization felt higher levels of happiness compared to those who spent money on themselves
  • The amount of money donated did not influence the level of happiness felt
    • This happiness is felt not only in the giver, but the receiver as well

 

 Happiness promotes giving

  • Several studies have shown those who are feeling happy are more likely to give back
  • Creates a circular pattern between giving back and happiness
    • This is true in the receiver as well, encouraging them to also pay it forward
    • Creates a world focused on evoking happiness and gratitude 

Encourages gratitude

  • It is not just when you receive gifts that you feel grateful. Giving also evokes a sense of gratitude
  • As we discussed in a previous article, gratitude then improves your emotional state and life satisfaction

How to Give Back

While monetary gifts are great, not all of us can afford to donate money or presents. Especially during a month that is historically more expensive already. With that in mind, here is a list of cheap or free ways to give back and help improve your emotional state while you’re at it.

"No One Has Ever Become Poor By Giving"

- Anne Frank

Inexpensive Gestures:

  • Buy someone a coffee
  • Bring a non-perishable food item to a food bank (perhaps an item you already have at home)
  • Buy a toy and bring it to your local hospital or shelter (can be something from the dollar store)
  • Donate clothes you no longer wear to the nearest second-hand store

Free Gestures:

  • Connect with a friend you think needs support
  • Visit a senior centre/retirement home and spend time with the elders (ie. play cards/music or read a book)
  • Spend time with your grandparents
  • Shovel your neighbour’s driveway
  • Offer free holiday gift wrapping (recycled gift wrapping; hopefully!)
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen
  • Organize a winter clothing/coat drive in your community for a shelter or organization
  • Spend time at an animal shelter

Daily gestures:

  • Hold the door for the person behind you
  • Give up your seat on the bus
  • Give someone your spot in line
  • Carry someone’s groceries out to their car
  • Smile and say hello to someone on the street

Remember, life can be challenging any month of the year.  Consider continuing these practices after the holidays have come and gone. You and others around you will be happier for it! :) 


For more information: 

Anik, L., Aknin, L., Norton, M., & Dunn, E. (2009). Feeling good about giving: The benefits (and costs) of self-interested charitable behavior.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2017/07/10/the-science-of-giving-back-how-having-a-purpose-is-good-for-body-and-brain/#2b5ac3886146 

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