Helpers High: Because Doing Good Feels Really Good

Helpers 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.”

As reported by The Cleveland Clinic, studies show that the following health and mental health benefits can be outcomes of giving:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Less depression
  • Lower stress levels
  • Longer life
  • Greater happiness

Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist and happiness expert, describes in Psychology Today some research on the significant health boosts specifically from volunteerism:

People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44 percent lower likelihood of dying—and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status, and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church; it means that volunteering is nearly as beneficial to our health as quitting smoking!

Helper’s High

Even studies involving the brain, it’s noted by the Cleveland Clinic, support the existence of the condition known as “helper’s high”:

In a 2006 study, researchers from the National Institutes of Health studied the functional MRIs of subjects who gave to various charities. They found that giving stimulates the mesolimbic pathway, which is the reward center in the brain, releasing endorphins and creating what is known as the ‘helper’s high.’ And like other highs, this one is addictive, too.

May be not such a bad addiction to have. You certainly never see helper’s-high rehab centers.

More On Giving Money

Michael Norton expands on the concept that spending money on others’ behalf feels good. He speaks about how 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.

Career Helpers

And what kind of high do people get who help people for a living? Do helpers have the most career happiness?

A recent survey conducted by myplan.com found therapists, pediatricians, and school counselors in the top 10 of those with job/career satisfaction. And a University of Chicago survey in 2011 (reported by Forbes) found clergy, firefighters, physical therapists, and special education teachers in the top five of “happiest jobs” and psychologists at number eight.

No wonder people sometimes feel we should work for free.

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