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  • Writer's pictureAngela Belcher

Helping Others

The Power of Altruism: Helping Others for a Healthier Life

Altruism is “an action that is done with the intention of helping another” (Filkowski et al., 2016). Remarkably, altruistic behaviors can begin at a very early age. Babies as young as 14 months have been observed engaging in helping behaviors without knowledge of or experience with reciprocity, reward, or encouragement. This suggests that helping others is something we’re born with or learn instinctively as we age.

The Benefits of Altruism

Filkowski et al. (2016) also found that “altruistic behaviors not only benefit others but also have profound positive effects on the current and future physical and psychological well-being of the person performing the behavior.” When we help others, they feel good because they’re getting something they needed; but it helps us as well. Helping people releases oxytocin into the bloodstream, which counteracts cortisol and other hormones that cause chronic stress and inflammation.

Practical Ways to Help Others

How we are able to help others depends on our own wellness and what we have to offer. For instance, someone under financial burden may find it challenging to give away money, but they could hold a door open for someone, or greet someone with a genuine smile and wave. Helping others doesn’t have to involve a committed relationship with a non-profit organization complete with a schedule and a supervisor. Simple acts of kindness can have a significant impact:

  • In the Grocery Store: Make room for someone to get by, or help someone reach an item on a high shelf.

  • In Traffic: Yield to someone who doesn’t have the right-of-way but seems determined to enter traffic.

  • In Everyday Interactions: Cast a knowing smile at a young dad trying to wrangle his toddler or offer words of encouragement to someone who looks downcast.

  • At Work or School: Offer to help a colleague with a task, or share a friendly greeting with someone new or someone who seems isolated.

Start Today

We can offer encouragement, generosity, and kindness to every person we come into contact with. Small acts of altruism can create a ripple effect, spreading positivity and well-being. Let’s make a conscious effort to help others and, in doing so, enhance our own health and happiness. Let’s start today.

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