Pandemic, war in Ukraine and ecological disaster. It’s a cocktail that can knock down even the most resilient person out there. Stunned by the anxiety-provoking news of the last few months, it has never taken so much effort to be optimistic about the future and to see the glass as half full. In response to an oppressive world, the tendency is even to turn inward. However, to get out of the gloom, we would certainly gain a lot more by taking the opposite direction, by opening up to others and taking action.
Indeed, it turns out that helping others, volunteering and acting selflessly for causes that matter to us is good for our self-esteem and health (mental, but also physical). We didn’t say that, science did!
1- It feels good when you help others
Encouraging us to turn to others to feel better may seem naive; however, when we take a positive action, a clever mechanism is put in place in the brain and contributes to our appeasement. Studies tend to show that certain regions of the prefrontal cortex are modified when we do a positive action. This probably participates in the release of certain molecules such as dopamine, linked to feelings of pleasure. Making the other person happy and seeing him or her be happy, exhilarates us, and also makes us happy. It’s that simple!
2- It can make you live longer
This interplay of hormones also optimizes our well-being by reducing stress and anxiety. According to studies, people who are in the habit of helping others and producing benevolent acts would even secrete 23% less cortisol – the stress hormone – than others. A virtuous mechanism is then set in motion, which keeps the altruist healthier. They even produce more oxytocin (the hormone of love and bonding). In doing so, the nitric oxide molecule is released and dilates the blood vessels. The individual thus lowers his blood pressure and protects his heart from cardiovascular risks. According to science, the generous and altruistic person ages better than others, is in better physical and psychological health, and enjoys a longer life expectancy.
3. Altruism and generosity are contagious!
Research on social networks has shown that if you demonstrate generosity and radiate positive energy, it spreads to all of your friends, to the friends of your friends and even to the friends of the friends of your friends.
In a Scientific American article, people were given a dollar amount to give away. Although most people decided to give some of it to charity, their donations were influenced by the perceived stinginess of others. Those who felt their peers had been particularly cheap with their money, decided to be cheap as well. However, evidence shows that the more generous our peers are, the more generous we become too. When conformity is harnessed for good things like kindness rather than bad things like negativity and doubt, it can really make an impact!
4- It boosts your self-esteem
It is also important to understand that social proximity is a fundamental psychological need. Without it, the individual withers. The more we take care of others and relationships, the more we strengthen our sense of social connection, which in turn increases our sense of emotional security. Turning towards others, helping them, makes us feel useful and boosts our self-esteem.
5. It gives you purpose
Symbolically speaking, acting for others also allows us to become masters of our daily life and feel less powerless. This is a godsend after two years of the pandemic, which confronted us with the unknown and plunged us into uncertainty. We regain a sense of control over the situation through concrete actions taken on a daily basis. Thanks to the satisfaction felt and the meaning that this can bring us, we also improve our well-being.
This quest for meaning, precisely; for purpose, animates us all. And we find this meaning by having the impression of participating in a collective work.
6. It creates a sense of belonging
Giving back to society is a great way to benefit the planet and our fellow creatures. It will create a sense of community and help create new friendships. Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at the local food bank, for example, will allow you to meet new people and connect with them to find common ground. You’ll help others and get to know the people you live near that share the same passions.
Of course, it’s up to everyone to find their own playground. For some, it’s about investing in helping their friends and family. For others, altruism will consist of getting involved in associations, embracing a humanitarian cause, or simply being present and listening to those around them.
But in order to be available for others, we must ensure a sufficient level of personal well-being. Many studies show that positive emotions encourage altruistic gestures. So we give ourselves time to recharge and then foster quality relationships. We should also be comfortable asking for help ourselves when needed. These are the most important things for maintaining good mental health.
Convinced that helping others and acting for better communities and a better world is for you? Join Tiramisu to help others, find volunteer opportunities and start your kindness revolution! 😉