Have you ever been using a pedestrian crossing and seen someone struggling to get across in time? If you’re not in a rush, you might offer to help to ensure they reach the other side safely. Alternatively, if you’re running late, you might note an awareness of the situation but keep going. Which of the two options leaves you feeling happier?
A lot of research has been carried out into the effect that helping others may have on our own health and happiness, for example:
- In a series of studies by a Harvard Business School scholar, it was found that people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves. The amount of money involved didn’t matter, it was the giving to others rather than using it to pay a bill or buy themselves a gift which made the difference to the participants’ happiness.
- Various studies have been carried out which suggest that older people who volunteer or help those they live amongst, may have greater longevity than those who receive support but don’t also give support to others.
- A 2013 study found that a stressful event in the lives of people who helped others did not increase their risk of earlier mortality. However, the odds of survival decreased by around 30% for those who didn’t engage in helpful behaviour.
- In another health-related study, those with a higher tendency to give social support reported greater received social support. They also experienced other health benefits including greater self-esteem and less stress than those with a lower tendency to give social support to others
The pattern of results of the above studies becomes obvious … giving is good for our health and happiness and we would all do well to build it into our self-care routine.
Remember, however, to find your equilibrium. Giving to others may indeed be beneficial to our health and happiness but there is a balance to be found. We need to ensure it is not at the expense of sacrificing our own needs, as this parenting article so neatly points out.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
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