“Helping others is the way we help ourselves.” – Oprah Winfrey.
Did you know that helping others can do wonders for your health? As surprising as it may sound, when we help others, we are not only making the world a better place, but we are also helping ourselves to become better. Studies have shown that helping others boosts our confidence, happiness levels, overall sense of well-being, and health. Volunteering or helping others in any other way offers a plethora of benefits for both our bodies and mind. These acts give people a sense of purpose and make them happier and more satisfied with life.
If you are wondering how your health benefits as a result of helping others; this article is for you. In this article, I’m sharing nine scientifically proven health benefits of helping others in need.
- Increases Your Life Span
Did you know that altruism can lengthen your life span? Yes, it is true. Numerous studies have been conducted with the people who help in the soup kitchens or volunteer in sheltered accomodation. According to studies, these people are better able to manage stress and fight off infections and diseases. Helping others improves our social interaction levels by forcing us out of isolation, hence potentially contributing to a reduction in depression.
It seems that people who volunteer experience lower rates of depression and higher satisfaction with life. All these factors have a positive effect on our long-term health. If you don’t know how to help others, you can start by donating blood. Blood donation is linked to lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart stroke. It improves your cardiovascular health. Moreover, every day there are millions of patients that require blood. In fact, in America alone, someone needs blood every two seconds. Blood donors, through their acts of kindness, help those suffering with cancer, thalassemia, heart surgery, organ transplant patients and burn victims. However, before you donate blood, don’t forget to check the eligibility requirements issued by Red Cross Blood Donation.
- Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a very prevalent health condition. Almost 1 in every 3 American adults suffers from high blood pressure, for example. If you have this health condition, your doctor is likely to have told you to eat a healthy diet, one without red meat and excessive fats, be physically fit and active, get at least 7-8 hours of sleep, and maintain a healthy weight. But did you know that in addition to all these things, by helping others, you can lower your blood pressure? According to a research study, older adults who volunteered for two hundred hours a year experienced 40% lower hypertension than those who did not volunteer.
Social opportunities like this provide people with an opportunity to socialise and alleviate their loneliness. Rodlescia S. Sneed, a PhD candidate in psychology at Carnegie Melon University, says, “As people get older, social transitions like retirement, bereavement and the departure of children from home often leave older adults with fewer natural opportunities for social interaction,” Sneed said. “Participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections that they might not have otherwise. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy ageing and reduces the risk for a number of negative health outcomes.” So, if you want to benefit your health and lower your blood pressure, add volunteering to your regular schedule.
- Makes Us Happy
Another reason why helping others is good for our health is because it makes us happy. Thomas Jefferson once said that you could not be healthy if you were not happy, and it is definitely true. This mind-body relationship is more important than we often realise. According to Psychiatrist Dr Francoise Adan, director at University Hospitals in Cleveland, “Being happy doesn’t just make us feel better, it improves our health. It helps us eat healthier, be more active and sleep better.”
Since happiness encourages us to adopt healthy behaviours, it can lower blood pressure and trim body fat, which can reduce the risk of stroke and cardiovascular diseases. Volunteering makes us happy. In a study, sociologists discovered that around 2000 people who declared that they were happy for over a five-year period volunteered for almost 5.8 hours per month. In a nutshell, volunteering makes us happy and contributes to our better well-being.
- Fosters Motivation
Another surprising benefit of helping others is that it creates and fosters motivation in people. When you make a habit of doing good deeds, you want to do more. When you see the impact that your good deeds create, you get motivated to do more good in the world. Performing good deeds catches on, and you start seeking new ways to help others in society. It also has the potential to make you more creative. You can start doing simple helpful acts like picking up litter or removing the rock from the road so nobody gets hurt. These simple acts not only help you create a cleaner environment but also improves your health. Simply put, volunteering, giving, and helping others in any possible way fosters motivation and makes us more creative.
- Decreases Loneliness
Helping others helps us stay connected. It is a great way to reduce social isolation and lessen loneliness. Volunteering, for instance, forces us to get out of our comfy pyjamas and do something. It offers us a sense of purpose and mission in life, which has been associated with higher life quality and improved health. Research has shown that such activities are very effective in boosting our mood, cognitive function, and overall well-being. Social isolation and loneliness are especially detrimental to the health of older people. According to studies, it can influence their longevity, mental health, and physical health. So, if you are someone who suffers from social anxiety and social isolation, volunteer at a local or a charity organisation or actively seek ways of helping others locally in some way. Read these excellent articles for more on this topic:
– How to combat loneliness, reduce isolation and feel more engaged.
– How to feel less isolated and more engaged.
– How does isolation affect the human brain?
- Helps Keep Things in Perspective
Volunteering and helping others also helps keep things in perspective. When you see the people, you are helping, you can’t help but be grateful for the things you have in life. You realise how lucky you are to be in a position to help others. You start acknowledging all that you have in life: home, loving family and friends, a job, and a healthy body and mind. It can make you more positive in life and has a more optimistic outlook on life. It automatically provides an antidote for any disappointment you may have in life. So, helping others can provide a sense of perspective that makes you more optimistic and grateful.
- Boosts Self-confidence
Another benefit of helping others is that it can boost self-confidence, self-esteem, and sense of self-worth. The reason why it boosts self-confidence is that it increases social interaction. You become more self-confident by confiding in other people and making yourself vulnerable in front of other people. Moreover, volunteering is a perfect way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Most of us are afraid of the uncertainty that comes with pushing our boundaries.
By forcing us to embrace new situations and experience a new environment, we help ourselves grow and develop, increasing our self-confidence. You can never really experience something bigger than yourself or realise your full potential unless and until you are willing to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. So don’t be afraid of doing some new or uncomfortable. This is how you learn and grow. It may seem daunting at first, but remind yourself it boosts your self-confidence and self-esteem. In a nutshell, helping others heightens the sense of self-worth and self-esteem in people.
- Increased Physical Activity
No matter how you are helping others, it involves some kind of psychical activity, and physical activity is all things good. It is very important to make physical activity a part of your daily life. Not only helps improve your brain health, but it also strengthens your bones, aids in weight management, decreases the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and builds up stamina, among other things. Physical activity also plays an important role in preventing Type 2 Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.
Physical activity during volunteering mimics your daily life actions and, therefore, improves your ability to perform your daily activities such as climbing stairs, running, and doing groceries. You are more likely to experience improved physical function and less likely to suffer from falls and injuries. Hip fracture is the most common injury older adults experience. By adding volunteering to their daily schedule, not only are they going to benefit from a sense of belonging and community, but they are also more likely to stay active and fit.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. By helping others in any way we can, we are more likely to meet this requirement and stay healthy and fit. To incorporate more physical activity in your daily life by helping others, you can wash cars for a fundraiser, help out at an assisted living facility or a soup kitchen, distribute flyers for someone, or host a dancing class for older adults. These activities may differ in the level of exertion, but one thing is for sure, they will get your heart rate up.
- Reduced Stress
Stress is one of the most prevalent health conditions out there. Almost one-third of people in the US live under extremely stressful conditions. Stress is linked to numerous mental health problems. It can cause anxiety, depression, and personality disorder, among other mental health problems. Moreover, it is also very dangerous for people with cardiovascular health conditions. It increases the risk of heart stroke, high blood pressure, and abnormal heart rhythms. This is because when you are stressed, your heart beats faster, and your blood pressure rises. Stress constricts your arteries, decreasing the flow of blood and oxygen to the heart, which can cause chest pains in addition to heart attacks.
Helping out others can give people a sense of purpose and achievement that can be a great way to alleviate stress. Moreover, volunteering offers a healthy distraction and makes people stop thinking about the stressors again and again. Moreover, by exposing you to the challenges faced by others, volunteering helps put things into perspective. You realise how lucky you are, and you stop worrying about trivial matters. Volunteering also helps you get some physical activity which is scientifically proven to be a very effective way to relieve stress as well.
Moreover, the world is very small. You won’t be the only one with a good heart volunteering. There would be tons of other people like you that share your interests. Helping others would broaden your support network. You will be able to find a lot of like-minded people out there. You may find a person who shares your interest in cooking in the soup kitchen or loves taking pictures like you in the community art class you go to. This can make you more connected, reducing stress and depression.
We all know that helping others is a pro-social behaviour that can increase our empathy, support, and kindness. In addition to being beneficial for your emotional well-being, helping others is also good for your physical health. It reduces stress and helps keep your immune system strong. However, that is not all. It also has a direct positive effect on our health and overall sense of wellbeing. Helping others change our definition of wellbeing. Many believe that wellbeing is our material possessions: car, house, savings, assets, and clothes, all things that contribute to our comfort.
Helping others helps us realise that we can have a far more meaningful impact on our well-being by providing comfort to the ones around us. Among other things, helping others creates a sense of belonging, gives us a sense of renewal, and makes us more optimistic in life. So, make a conscious choice to offer assistance to other people and help yourself by helping others. All in all, helping others can help you in ways you cannot even imagine and open you up to a whole new world of possibilities.
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