Why Helping Others Makes Us Happy
Helping our fellow man has long been seen as an altruistic behavioral model. But it turns out that more selfish motives—pleasing friends, doing what you want—are more successful causes of effective volunteering. Whatever the motive, volunteering improves the health, happiness, and in some cases, the longevity of volunteers. Children who volunteer are more likely to grow up to be adults who volunteer. Even unwilling children who are forced to volunteer fare better than kids who don’t volunteer. And in a virtuous circle, communities with lots of volunteers are more stable and better places to live, which in turn further boosts volunteerism.
[See the Top 10 U.S. Cities for Well-Being.]
“On one hand, it’s striking that volunteering even occurs,” says Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota. “It seems to run against the strong dynamics of self-interest. There is simply nothing in society that says that someone is mandated to help anyone else.” Yet 1 in 3 adults do meaningful volunteer work on a sustained basis, he notes, and the United States has one of the world’s highest rates of volunteerism.
“People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness,” Snyder says. “All of these things go up as their feelings of social connectedness goes up, which in reality, it does. It also improves their health and even their longevity.”
Among teenagers, even at-risk children who volunteer reap big benefits, according to research findings studied by Jane Allyn Piliavin, a retired University of Wisconsin sociologist. She cites a positive effect on grades, self-concept, and attitudes toward education. Volunteering also led to reduced drug use and huge declines in dropout rates and teen pregnancies.
Other research links youth volunteering to a higher quality of life as an adult, Piliavin adds. “Participating in high school tends to boost participating in adulthood, which is related to enhanced well-being.” One clear message from this for parents: Get your children involved in community volunteer programs.
Most people say they value volunteering because it’s “the right thing to do,” among other altruistic reasons. But the strongest drivers of successful volunteers are actually more self-focused, notes Allen Omoto, a professor of psychology at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif. There are five main reasons people volunteer, he says.
Three are “self-focused”:
1. Understanding: the desire to learn new things and acquire knowledge.
2. Esteem enhancement: feeling better about yourself and finding greater stability in life.
3. Personal development: acquiring new skills, testing your capabilities, and stretching yourself.
Two are “other-focused”:
4. Sense of community: making the world, or your piece of it, better.
5. Humanitarian values: serving and helping others, often with a strong religious component.
“The ones that get the higher rates of endorsement are the ‘other focused’ ones,” Omoto says. “But it’s the ‘self-focused’ ones that predict length of service.” Snyder also says people who don’t volunteer often have an idealized view of people who do. “They put them up on a pedestal,” he says. This might actually deter people from volunteering because they feel they don’t measure up.
The benefits of volunteering are linked to a person’s degree of commitment. “It’s clear that more is better, at least up a point,” Piliavin says. “Some studies find an inflection point and others don’t. One study finds the benefits increase up to the point where a person has volunteered 100 hours during a year.” Consistency is also important. “The more consistently you do it, the better your psychology benefits,” she says.
Snyder says the amount of volunteering people do tends to rise steadily during their adult years and begins declining at about the age of 60. Interestingly, the benefits of volunteering rise for older people, and experts say they might benefit from more volunteer work, not less.
New research shows that helping others may be the key to happiness.
By Lisa Farino
Few of us are immune to the frustrations and challenges of daily life—family problems, conflicts at work, illness, stress over money. When we get depressed or anxious, experts may recommend medication and/or therapy. But a newly emerging school of thought suggests that a simple, age-old principle may be part of both the prevention and the cure: Help others to help yourself.
There’s no shortage of research showing that people who give time, money, or support to others are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their lives—and less likely to be depressed. Could helping others be the key to weathering the inevitable storms of life?
Carolyn Schwartz, a research professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, didn’t start out looking at the value of helping others. Instead, she wanted to see if receiving monthly peer-support phone calls from fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers would benefit others with the disease. But over time, a surprising trend emerged. While those receiving support appeared to gain some mild benefit, the real beneficiaries were those lending a supportive ear. In fact, those who offered support experienced dramatic improvements in their quality of life—several times more so than those they were helping.
The benefits of giving aren’t limited to those who are ill. When Schwartz later looked at more than 2,000 mostly healthy Presbyterian church-goers across the nation, she found that those who helped others were significantly happier and less depressed than those who didn’t.
This phenomenon is nothing new. Paul Wink and Michele Dillon found a similar pattern when they looked at data collected every decade on a group of San Francisco Bay Area residents beginning in the 1930s. Those who volunteered and engaged in other forms of giving when they were adolescents were much less likely to become depressed, even as they got older.
New research suggests there may be a biochemical explanation for the positive emotions associated with doing good. In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, participants’ brains were monitored by MRI scans while they made decisions about donating part of their research payment to charitable organizations. When participants chose to donate money, the brain’s mesolimbic system was activated, the same part of the brain that’s activated in response to monetary rewards, sex, and other positive stimuli. Choosing to donate also activated the brain’s subgenual area, the part of the brain that produces feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin, that promote social bonding.
Why doing good works
These results may seem surprising, especially since our culture tends to associate happiness with getting something. Why should we humans be programmed to respond so positively to giving?
“As Darwin noted, group selection played a strong rule in human evolution. If something like helping benefits the group, it will be associated with pleasure and happiness,” explains Stephen Post, Ph.D., a research professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University who co-authored the book Why Good Things Happen to Good Peoplewith Jill Neimark.
While evolution may have primed us to feel good from giving, it may not be the only reason helping others makes us feel better. Since depression, anxiety, and stress involve a high degree of focus on the self, focusing on the needs of others literally helps shift our thinking.
“When you’re experiencing compassion, benevolence, and kindness, they push aside the negative emotions,” says Post. “One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else.”
Even better, feeling good and doing good can combine to create a positive feedback loop, where doing good helps us to feel good and feeling good also makes us more likely to do good.
“Numerous studies have found that happy people are more helpful,” says Dr. David Myers, a social psychologist at Hope College and author of The Pursuit of Happiness. “Those who’ve just found money in a phone booth are more likely to help a passerby with dropped papers. Those who feel successful are more likely to volunteer as a tutor.”
When giving isn’t good
While doing good is generally good for the doer, Post stresses that there are two important caveats. First, the caregiver can’t be overwhelmed. There’s ample research showing negative mental and physical consequences for givers who are overburdened and stressed by their duties—or who do so much they don’t have time to have fun and take care of themselves.
In addition, while helping others can be a great antidote to the mild depression, stress, and anxiety that is a normal part of the ups and downs daily life, Post emphasizes that it’s not a cure for severe depression. “If you are clinically depressed, you need professional help,” Post says.
But for people who aren’t severely depressed and who give within their limits, helping others can bring joy and happiness—and better health and longevity too.
Some people wonder if these positive benefits make helping others an ultimately selfish act. “If the warm glow and ‘helper’s high’ that people experience when they help others is selfish, then we need more of this kind of selfishness,” says Post.
How to help others—and yourself
Incorporating kindness into your daily life isn’t difficult. Here are five easy things you can do to help others—and yourself:
- Volunteer. Research shows that people who volunteer just two hours per week (about 100 hours per year) have better physical health and are less depressed. To find volunteer opportunities in your area, visit Volunteer Match or contact your local church or school.
- Informally offer help to family, friends, and neighbors. Lend a needed tool, bring dinner to someone who’s sick, feed pets for neighbors on vacation, or offer a ride to someone who lacks a car.
- Donate. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money. Toss change into coffee cans at cash registers or support local organizations by buying a raffle ticket. Look for opportunities to give within your means. You’ll help make the world a better place and make yourself feel better too.
- Listen. Sometimes all others need is someone to lend a sympathetic ear to make them feel heard, cared for and loved.
- Make other people (and yourself) smile. The easiest way to make other people happy is to act happy yourself, even if it’s not how you feel. “Sometimes we can act ourselves into a way of thinking,” says Myers. “So like the old song says, ‘Put on a happy face.’ Talk as if you have self-esteem and are outgoing and optimistic. Going through the motions can awaken the emotions.”
Are you Interested in Helping? Here’s Opportunities in SM!
Click Here for Volunteer Opportunities in SM
1. For today’s assignment, you are going to read many quotes from the link below.
2. Chose 1 quote and write a 4 paragraph essay explaining how that quote inspires you to go after your dreams!
Good things come to those who wait… greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” – Unknown
Dreams are what lead a person to happiness. They are the golden thoughts of our minds that inspire us to life full of excitement. When we dream, we also begin to plan, but planning itself doesn’t equal success or an ability to attain a goal. A quote that I love that speaks to this comes from an unknown person. They said, “Good things come to those who wait… greater things come to those who get off their butt and do anything to make it happen.” This quote speaks to me because I consider dreams good things, and this quote explicates that to ever achieve those good things, you must get off your butt and do “anything” to make it happen. That is the way I live, and it inspires me to see others continuing to motivate me to stay true to that path.
Everyone has different dreams. My dream is to own my own days. To wake up, love my family, go catch a surf, and traverse up some big tall mountain along the coastline to do my work. My dream is to be free, make my own schedule, and travel the world. My dream is to follow the goodness that surrounds us in life, and share that goodness exponentially with the world to help inspire others! There is a time for waiting, yet this quote reminds me that working towards a goal is the difference between just dreaming of it, and achieving it someday.
I think that so much of the time, “waiting for good things to happen” can become a crutch. That being said, however, in life, sometimes patience is not your choice, it just gets pressed upon you. Yet I believe that when you have a dream you deeply believe in, so much so that you want that life and can actually see yourself attaining it, then everyday, you must do something towards reaching that goal. Like the quote says, “good things come to those who wait…greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen,” I believe that there is always something you can do to take a step, even the smallest step, towards that dream each day.
In final, it’s not the excuses you make in life that determine the final reckoning of a dream, it’s the steps you take. It’s the arduous journey and love for your dream that gives you the adrenaline to create things to do and steps to take towards your dream, even when you have those days where you’re down and believe the dream may not be possible. Good things come to those who wait… [but] greater things come to those who get off their ass and do anything to make it happen.” This mentality has gotten me this far towards my dream, I might as well not stop thinking that way now.
Live positive, Live Inspired, Live for Others
Download the Powerpoint Presentation to your Tablet by clicking this link in red: Characterization
1. Read the article, “Surfing for Hope: Passion,” below.
2. Answer the questions in red that come after the story.
Surfing for Hope: Passion
By: Bog Voglin
Passion is the word I think about in relationship to surviving difficult situations. 10 years ago I discovered I had cancer. I discovered a small lump on my neck and I thought it was a mild infection and saw my nurse practitioner who after checking out this lump gave me the fateful expression, “Let me get another set of hands to check this out. My doctor came in and sent me off to a local ENT doctor who confirmed my lump was a fast growing cancer that had attached to my lymph node. “Yikes, I have cancer,” were my immediate thoughts. On the first week of January 2004 I began going through treatment to fight this fast growing thing on my neck.
I received 35 straight days of radiation and 3 series of chemotherapy and after 6 months had a rad neck dissection and more chemo. All this left me weak and almost took me out with challenges of dehydration and not being able to consume enough food to keep me going which resulted in having to have a peg tube or food tube in my stomach. Not a lot of fun, but without these intense treatments I would have died. At that time there were not a lot of resources in our area for people like me to find and get direction and information on cancer. I was literally brought to my knees with my battle with cancer. I was lucky that I had a wonderful angel of a wife who helped me get through this difficult time. I’m also so lucky to have had a passion that helped me in so many ways to power through and survive this ordeal. For me surfing is my passion and I’ve been such a lucky human to have been able to surf for more than 50 years, It’s like I’ve gotten away with something so special for most of my life.
I started surfing in 1960 in Santa Monica.
We lived in Pacific Palisades at that time and I could skateboard to the beach and surf State Beach, sometimes I would get to surf with Dora and Jonny Fain, oh how they disliked us gremmies and we were just inspired by their amazing surfing skills and tried to mimic them. I’ve had the pleasure to surf so many wonderful spots. Malibu, Topanga and Point Dume were some of my favorites in my early days. I’ve been fortunate to have surfed many great spots in Hawaii, Mexico and even got to surf in Christmas Island on two different trips and surfing the Central Coast for almost 24 years has been awesome. I’ve lived the surfer life for all these years and I’m probably more stoked now about this sport now, than when I was younger. You can say I took to heart the song surfing is the only life, the only life for me..
When I was fighting cancer I was very lucky to have many people in our surfing community help and support me through my struggle. I surfed through the first part of my treatments and keep paddling out until I was too weak to go.
When I regained some strength I got back in the water and surfing made me stronger and the stoked help me get through this battle. I was so blessed to have a loving family, great surf and non- surf friends and the love of God to help me pull through this gnarly section of my life.
After I recovered from this ordeal I became involved with a group of survivors who help and talk to people going through cancer. When the Hearst Cancer Resource Center opened about 7 years ago, I also volunteered. I was at the Arroyo Grande High School’s Puma swim meet representing the Resource Center with Bev Kirkhart, the director, when I came up with an idea. Let’s combine the medical world with the surfing community to help people with cancer. I mentioned this to Bev and she thought it was a great idea. I saw my oncologist, Tom Spillane and his wife Dr. Karen Allen at the beach, of course, and presented the idea of a surf contest and benefit to them. They loved the idea and so began Surfing for Hope. We were very fortunate to have a great group, both surfers and medical people, that appreciated this idea and jumped in to make it happen.
We held our first event in Nov. 2012 and it
was a huge success. Our event is like a 5-part play. We start with a memorial paddle out at Avila beach; then, have a dinner and auction in Avila. The next day is a surf contest at the Pismo pier and later in the day we have a Health Fair on the pier. We end with an awards ceremony at Steamer’s Restaurant in the wonderful city of Pismo. We raised more than $60,000 our first event and almost $50,000 with this year’s event. All the money goes to helping and educating people with cancer through the Hearst Cancer Resource Center in San Luis Obispo which helps people in our area.
Passion is my word and the one I embrace when I talk to other people who are challenged with cancer. For me, my passion is, and always will be surfing. I tell people to find what they like or love and use it to get through the difficult ride of fighting cancer. Surfing for Hope is my thanks to surfing and being able to participate in this wondrous sport that is not only healthy, but healing.
1. What inspired you about reading Bob Voglin’s story?
2. Bob found that surfing helped keep his spirits high when he was battling cancer, what is your favorite positive athletic thing to do? Explain how being active can make you happy and keep your spirits high.
3. After having other people (Doctors) help him through cancer, what did bob do when he got better?
4. Have you ever been helped by others through a difficult situation? How so?
5. Have you ever thought about creating a way to help others, like how Bob is helping other cancer patients? If so, what have you done? If not, how could you live your life in a way to help others?
1. Read the article below. 2. Answer the questions about the reading
Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. ~ Seneca
by Mary Jaksch
Do you dream of a lucky break? Maybe you want to get that special job or special opportunity?
We often think of luck as something that happens randomly. And maybe that’s the case when it comes to lotto. But if you want good fortune in your life, there are things you can do to become fortunate.
I tend to have good fortune. That’s because I follow three secret principles that lead to good fortune. They are powerful.
- Create good fortune for others
Most people think of getting and having as a key to good fortune. That’s like thinking that you are the center of the universe and you expect good things to flow towards us from all sides. In my experience that’s not what creates good fortune. The secret is to turn your thinking around and consider what others need. And then to take action.The first principle of good fortune is to enable good fortune for others where you can.
- Meet good fortune half way
As I said before, I tend to be fortunate. And – boy – do I work hard for that good fortune! My sense is that we need to meet good fortune half way. That is, we have to put our heart and soul into a venture, to do our utmost. That effort attracts good fortune.It’s not enough to dream big, visualize outcomes, or set goals. In the end what counts is hard work. If I look at the instances where I have not had good fortune in my life, it was in areas that I wasn’t passionate about, and didn’t really put a lot of research and hard work into.The second principle is to meet good fortune half way
- Be positive
Good fortune comes to those who are positive. If you’re a whinger or a whiner, you may be keeping good fortune at bay, instead of inviting it into your life. Whatever you see as ‘the story of my life’ is going to come true. So, if story about your life is that you always draw the short straw – that’s how it’s going to be in the future. If, like me, the story of you life is that you tend to be fortunate – then that’s going to shape the rest of your life.
.The third principle of good fortune is to keep a positive attitude.
But what about when bad things happen?
Sometimes bad things happen. But we can learn and grow from whatever life throws at us. The important thing is to focus on the positive outcome. Sometimes that can be hard to see when we are in the middle of a painful situation. In those times I tend to ask myself, ‘What can I learn from this?’ That lesson can then become a new seed for good fortune.
Let go of negative stories
The most important thing is to let go of negative stories. So many people carry grand personal stories of how they were wronged, how they were betrayed, how they had bad luck. Such stories keep us trapped in the past and shut us out from good fortune in the future.
If you carry such stories, ask yourself, “Am I willing to give up this hard-luck story?” You may find that the story is seductive. Because our grand stories tend to define who we think we are. Can you live without this story? Could you never mention it again?
If you want to release yourself from bad luck in the past, you need to give up your negative stories. Whenever you notice that your mind is consumed by them, or when you become aware that you’re retelling it to others, say firmly to yourself, “I let go of that story now.” Then focus on something else.
If you follow these three secret principles, you will find that you attract good fortune.
And not only that. If we live according to these three principles, we create happiness for ourselves – and for others. Seneca was right: luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
1. Explain a time in your life when you’ve been lucky.
2. Explain a time in your life when you’ve been unlucky.
3. Choose a passage (a line) from the reading that explains how luck works.
4. Based on the reading, how would you explain why times when you had good luck were due to your actions, and times when you had bad luck are also due to your actions.
1. Go to this link to read the poem, and here it read by
2. Now read the poem to yourself. When you read a poem, make sure to pause at all the punctuation, wherever you see it. That’s the most important part to start understanding a poem.
3. Answer these questions:
a. Have you ever come to a fork in the road in your life and you wanted to make your own decision and not follow others any more? Explain what happened.
b. What’s the hardest part of making you’re own decisions in life?
c. It’s hard to carve your own path in life, or, as Frost says, take the Road Not taken by others. How can you be strong and choose a positive life path instead of all the negative paths that life offers us? Explain
1. Read the story “Pushing Pause” on page 12-13 in Choices Magazine issue “April ’14”
2. Answer these three questions in OneNote.
a. Identify three factors that influence decision making, and analyze how these factors are interrelated.
b. Using what you’ve learned about brain development, explain why the decision-making process is different for teens than for adults. What is an advantage of this difference? What is a disadvantage? Give an example of each.
c. According to scientific studies, what long-term benefitss are correlated with self-control, and how can self-control be improved?