Helping Others Helps Yourself

Looking to get rid of a backache? Carry home someone’s groceries!

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness,” states the Dalai Lama. In 12-step programs which originated with Alcoholics Anonymous, “the constant thought of others” is prescribed as the solution to one’s problems. In the Christian Bible are a wealth of quotes espousing a life of loving service. Many volunteer opportunities and service jobs such as teaching are deemed “rewarding.” Now science actually supports these religious, spiritual and secular views, proving that helping others not only helps us to feel better, but may even save our lives!

It was 1934 and the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, had once again been released from a mental hospital due to his compulsive drinking and the destructive behavior that it caused. Having tried repeatedly to not drink and undergone numerous hospitalizations Bill Wilson couldn’t stop and was hopelessly baffled. Then, something miraculous happened; he was introduced to Dr. Robert Smith, a man who was also unable to quit drinking for any significant period and, like Bill, had suffered dire consequences. The two men talked in Dr. Smith’s living room over coffee and cigarettes, discussing the ramifications of their drinking with complete honesty. At the end of the afternoon both realized something amazing and unexpected; during that entire time neither had craved or even thought about a drink. Hence, was born one of the primary tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous: helping others as a way to help oneself.

Most of us are not strangers to this notion of doing for others to receive inherent rewards. Helping others makes us feel good about ourselves as we see our own actions directly and positively influencing another living being. Helping others also helps us to forget our own problems and to recognize the difficulties others face, making us feel less alone. However, science has found that acts of loving kindness do not just reap psychological benefits, but may actually help to heal and prevent mental illness such as depression and even physical ailments as severe as heart disease and autoimmune disorders!

According to medical research, humane acts can help “regulate high blood pressure, keep the headaches away, improve circulation and ease back pain. It even deals with somewhat more serious diseases such as lupus, arthritis and coronary heart disease, to name a few,” writes Dr. Peter Wang.

How, one may wonder, could carrying home someone’s groceries, tutoring a child or serving a meal to a homeless person possibly result in curing something as serious as coronary artery disease?

The answer lies in the feel-good chemicals which are released during sex, exercise and when listening to or seeing something aesthetically pleasing. Those chemicals are the neurotransmitters called endorphins.

“When we open our hearts and reach out to others in kindness, our brain releases endorphins—the morphine-like chemicals that produce the feelings of exhilaration known as the “runner’s high,” writes Clinical Psychologist Dr. Janae Weinhold.

Well, then, why not just make a lot of trips to the gym and to the bedroom, you might ask?

First of all, helping others has actually been found to go one stop beyond those activities in its physiological benefits. In addition to producing endorphins, acts of kindness, according to researcher Paul Persall, also induce the release of “Substance P,” a neurotransmitter chemical that blocks pain.

There are also the other psychological benefits of forgetting one’s troubles, interacting with others and recognizing that one is not alone in one’s difficulties. However, the rewards of doing for others don’t end there. Experiments at the Institute of Heart Math actually showed that the positive feelings generated by humane acts can cause our DNA to change its shape. In other words, we can actually change our genes!

And as if all of that wasn’t enough, there has actually been research undertaken in the field of New Age spirituality. Gregg Braden, a practitioner of scientific spirituality, states that we can essentially change the composition of the universe with our thoughts and actions. Therefore, positive and kind thoughts and actions lead to more positive energy and actions in our world.

So, next time you experience a bout of depression, a splitting headache or a flare-up of arthritis, go find a place to volunteer. After all, everyone benefits, even your genes!

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7 thoughts on “Helping Others Helps Yourself

  1. misskrystalmisskrystal

    I totally agree. Helping others is one of the most positive things we can do for ourselves. It creates a great sense of will, and in return, on all levels, we are also helping ourselves. Thanks, Miss Krystal

    Reply
  2. 4me2knw

    Hello, I have fibromyalgia and was told by my doctor that we expierence so much pain because we have 3 times the amount of substance “P” in our spinal cords. Meaning that substance “P” causes the pain, not take it away like this article states. ?? Just wanted to point that out to you. As far as helping others, yes, it is very rewarding and can lift you out of your own gloom. I used to be a Hospice volunteer and I think it helped me more than the people I went to see. I also volunteer at our local animal shelter and those little animals just love you right back unconditionally! It makes me feel good knowing I helped their little lives be more comfortable and to have some love and care there for them. All in all, in a great article! TY you Nicole for writing it! In love and light, Eunice

    Reply
  3. Nicole Hoelle

    Thank you, Gina Rose! I am thrilled that the article resonates with you! Yes, “the Golden Rule” is a good compass and, yes, kindness towards others seems to be consistent through various philosophies and religions. It sounds like you have had incredible experiences! Thanks for sharing them and thanks for the comment! Nicole

    Reply
  4. Jacqueline

    Hi Nicole,
    Love your article, along with Gina Rose, when I crossed over I was shown the same types of things, we are here to help others, I was shown the snow ball effect in everything we do, acts as simple as a smile, a kind word, It was expressed to me over and over again the importance of putting others first, this was the first question that I was asked is how did I treat others?

    Blessings and Big Hugs!
    Jacqueline x9472

    Reply
  5. Gina Rose ext.9500Gina Rose ext.9500

    Great article…..

    I FIRMLY believe everything written in this article!!!!…..

    When I died and crossed over both times, I learned that it was ALL about learning, growing, and giving.
    Doesn’t matter what religion you are, (and there is NO specific, or correct religion on the other side by the way ), the ” golden rule ” is generally all one needs to remember to find happiness and fullfillment in life.

    Giving, just for the sheer satisfaction of giving and helping others, without expecting anything back in return, is the way to go.

    And in this day and age and economy, the options and ways one can contribute are virtually endless….

    Blessed Be )O(
    Gina Rose ext.9500

    Reply

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