How the Act of Helping Others Impacts Your Well-Being
Studies show a compassionate lifestyle does more for you than bring a smile to your face. You get what you give. This basic truth echoes throughout time and space, nowhere more poignantly than in the Golden Rule itself: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
But how does that impact our daily lives? It’s one thing to read the words or even to hold them as a mantra. However, embodying acts of kindness influences your well-being in meaningful and tangible ways.
Compassion Enhances Prosperity
Compassion can be hard. We sometimes help others from a sense of duty or obligation. Sometimes it feels difficult to reach out and help another, especially when they’re dealing with something heavy or when we’ve built up our own walls.
Compassion is a muscle—and we improve what we prioritize. By starting small and thinking of each action as a small stone creating a ripple of kindness and openheartedness, it’s easier to begin.
Making compassion a focus of our energy creates a greater sense of prosperity in our own lives. When we start looking for small opportunities to help others, it opens our eyes to how much we have available to give to others. Once you take one step, it’s easy to keep taking more.
“Once we begin to truly give in our lives, that energy of generosity creates a reciprocity that enhances our own prosperity,” says Unity World Headquarters CEO Jim Blake.
Practicing compassion increases our capacity for generosity and impacts our well-being as individuals and communities.
Community Creates Connection
In an era that places high value on digital connection, it is easy to fall into a routine of isolation and self-centeredness: You can play out whole lives just from your computer screen or even the phone in your pocket. You can broadcast your every thought or move without engaging anyone else.
Spending our days and our thoughts consumed with our own stuff not only keeps our world small, it creates unhealthy disconnects. We’re designed to learn and explore and share with each other.
"Being socially connected is our brain's lifelong passion," writes Matthew Lieberman, professor of psychology at UCLA. "It's been baked into our operating system for tens of millions of years."
Engaging in communities creates a “shared oneness,” providing a lifeline that keeps you connected to something larger than yourself. This is an innate component of your well-being.
When we take care of something or someone, it builds a greater appreciation and stronger connection. By taking care of our communities, we fill up each other’s emotional buckets, creating shared oneness.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of money or a lot of time to be impactful. Pick up litter when you’re out for a walk or return stray shopping carts when you go to the grocery store. Take cookies to your local fire station or pay someone’s fees for overdue books at the library. Offer a hug to someone who needs it or share a compliment with someone you might not have spoken to otherwise.
Everyday acts of kindness promote a sense of community and create the connection we are wired for and need to thrive.
Helping Others Improves Health
It feels good to do good. Here’s the science to explain why: When people perform good deeds or do something generous, brain scans show that neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are released, making the do-gooder feel happy and fulfilled.
Those responses help us in more ways than just brightening our afternoon, though. The body’s physiological response to those positive neurotransmitters helps lower blood pressure, improves mood, and decreases stress. In fact, studies have shown that helping others helps reduce feelings of depression, increases longevity, and improves vitality.
As we pursue well-being, we often look at our health in silos: diet over here, exercise over there. Meditation in the mornings, prayer in the evenings. But helping others reminds us that we are not segmented and isolated. We are connected beings and what we do for one, we do for all.
When we reach out a helping hand to our neighbor, we don’t serve just one need. We serve the energy of the community and the spirit of compassion.
Helping others promotes a feeling of interconnectedness and support in your community. It allows expansion of awareness and a sense of purpose. It impacts your well-being from the outside in.