When we think of altruism or generous acts of kindness, the tendency is to focus on the benefits to the recipient. It seems somewhat selfish or inconsiderate to think about the benefits to the giver, but this should not be the case at all. As long as the giver is helping a cause they truly believe in, there should be no shame in appreciating the many emotional and physical benefits of helping. After all, why should it be wrong to feel good about doing good?
Surprisingly, the benefits of altruism go much further than simply the satisfaction of helping society. Psychologists identify the physical sensation of helping as ‘Helper’s High’. This is because the sensation of donating, whether that be time or money, triggers the part of the brain that releases dopamine-mediated euphoria. Studies have shown that giving boosts happiness, increases feelings of self-worth and can even help sleep quality due to a reduction in anxiety. A study of 823 seniors shows that those that aspired to a ‘higher purpose’ of benefitting society were 63% less likely to experience sleep apnea. On a less scientific note, the act of giving is known to increase gratitude for your own life situation, as you are putting yourself in a position to see and help those less fortunate. In the same way, this can serve as a distraction from your own problems as you focus on helping to solve those of others.
Volunteering can also be seen as a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle – and not simply because it makes us feel calmer and happier. A study has shown that people aged 55 or older who volunteer for two or more organisations have a 44% lower likelihood of dying early, which means that volunteering can be nearly as beneficial as giving up smoking. Moreover, the act of volunteering itself can also bring about many health benefits – whether that is through going outside to plant trees, running a marathon for charity, or simply increasing the time you spend outside the house interacting with people.
With such intense advantages, it can be natural to wonder if there are any disadvantages. Of course, helping beyond your means can be tiring, which is why it is important to be choose your causes carefully and be aware of the different ways of giving. At whatCharity.com we aim to make this process easier by allowing you to clearly see exactly what a charity does and why. Evaluating a charity’s impact and taking the time to find a cause that really resonates with you is an important part of the process – this way you are ensuring your work benefits your chosen cause, whilst increasing ‘Helper’s High’ at the same time. This positive and healthy approach will only inspire you to carry on charitable work and may hopefully even influence others around you to do the same. Similarly, asking for a small gesture of gratitude, even for a simple ‘thank you’, is not a selfish act – we are all human and those two words could be the catalyst that starts someone on towards a lifetime path of giving.
The whatCharity team.