Helper’s High: Doing Good Feels Good

Helper’s High: Doing Good Feels Good

If you do good acts are you doing it for others? If not, why do it? Here’s a reason: not only is it good for the helpees, it’s also good for you. You could actually catch a “helper’s high,” a concept reportedly first conceptualized in the 1980’s.

Definition of Helper’s High

“’Helper’s high’ is the name given to that feeling of well-being that follows an opportunity to extend an act of kindnessdonate money to a charitable cause, or volunteer in a meaningful setting. After volunteering, have you ever found yourself thinking, ‘Wow, I got more out of that than I gave!’ That feeling is one version of the helper’s high. It’s part of human evolution. When we help or protect others, we contribute to keeping the human species alive” (

Sarah Kristenson, at, lists “nine reasons why helping others makes us happy.” These are listed below along with excerpts from her explanations. See the link for further details.

  1. Kindness Toward Others Releases Endorphins. (“Think of it as your body’s natural morphine.”)
  2. Releases the Love Hormone, i.e., Oxytocin. (“When you do good for others, you’re increasing your oxytocin, which means your trust in others will strengthen. As a result, more oxytocin means you experience more positive relationships, which makes you happy.”)
  3. Produces a Calming Effect via Serotonin. (“Normal levels of serotonin mean lowered levels of anxiety, which leads to calmness.”)
  4. Reduces Stress by lowering Cortisol. (“Therefore, acting out of kindness toward others reduces stress. Less stress leads to happiness.”)
  5. Improved Immune System Function. (“Because being charitable reduces stress, you can conclude that it also promotes a healthy immune system.”)
  6. Better Health. (“All of these previous reasons add up to one further conclusion–better health, both physically and mentally.”)
  7. Live Longer. (“With better health and less stress comes a longer life.”)
  8. Feeling of Satisfaction. (“As with the feeling of well-being, this feeling of satisfaction is also a chemical response. When you help someone, dopamine is released in the brain. Dopamine is another hormone that helps with mood evaluation.”)
  9. Change in Perspective. (“Ultimately, improved health and happiness causes a change in your perspective. You begin to look at the world more positively.”)

As Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D. (Psychology Today) points out, however, “Not everyone benefits from altruism. For example, for those who are already feeling overwhelmed by having too many things on their plate, adding more—even if the intentions are positive—is not likely to end well. This is particularly true for those individuals who have problems with time management.”

Moderation and balance are advised lest helpers don’t take on too much and therefore experience burnout or compassion fatigue

On Giving Money As a Way of Offering Help

Michael Norton notes that spending money on others’ behalf is a way that some can feel helper’s high. He believes money can actually buy happiness—when you buy for oneself, yes, but even more when you fork it over for others. “Spending on other people has a bigger return for you than spending on yourself.”

Check out his TED Talk.

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