We’ve all experienced that feeling – the elation, the satisfaction when we help someone. Even toddlers feel it – a recent study showed that toddlers proved to be happier when giving rather than receiving toys. And it turns out that showing such acts of selflessness can actually keep us alive longer!
According to a psychological study by Harris and Thoresen in 2005, volunteering two hours per week over the course of many years was shown to reduce mortality rates by a whopping 40 percent. (http://www.prb.org/pdf11/TodaysResearchAging21.pdf)
Interestingly enough, the desire to volunteer crosses all socioeconomic boundaries. People with less money and less physical mobility are just as interested in volunteering as the more affluent and able among us.
Performing a selfless act for the benefit of someone in need brings people a greater sense of self, enhances their self-esteem and connects them to their communities. It also helps reduce stress and brings a better perspective to the world around them.
Science backs this up. When you perform a good deed, the reward center of your brain produces more of the the mood-elevating neurotransmitter dopamine. Psychologists call this the “Helper’s High,” and it’s very powerful. Says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, “Each action has a cumulative effect. The more nice things you do, the more people will respond positively toward you, and the better you’ll feel.”