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Reaping the Benefits of Helping Others

The suffering caused by the recent earthquake in Haiti has led many of us to wonder how we can make others’ lives better in the wake of tragedy. But did you know that donating your time and resources to others in need benefits the giver as well as the recipient?

 Allan Luks, author of The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others, has researched a phenomenon he calls “Helper’s High” for many years. Luks states that helpers experience a high similar to that of a runner following a workout. After helping someone, the helper’s body releases endorphins, brain chemicals that reduce pain and increase euphoria. This creates a rush of elation followed by a period of calm. He found evidence that a helper can even re-experience this high just by remembering their altruistic acts – even long after they take place.

Luks’ studies also suggest that volunteering and charitable giving help ease stress, improving physical and emotional health by:

· strengthening immune system activity

· decreasing intensity and awareness of physical pain

· activating positive emotions that support well-being

· reducing negative attitudes that deplete well-being

· enhancing functioning of various body systems

Putting the needs of others ahead of one’s own can also improve one’s spiritual health. Altruism can provide a sense of direction and bring a purpose to life. Feeling like part of something greater than oneself, and seeing the power we have to touch lives can make us feel less alone in the universe and give us meaning.

For some, however, the good feelings that come from helping can become a substitute for a healthy dose of self-esteem. Feeling compelled to take care of everyone else first can cause you to overlook your own needs. So, how can you judge whether your helping is enhancing or detracting from your well-being? Be sure to ask yourself these questions:

  • Are you feeling resentful towards those you are helping?
  • Are you unable to manage your responsibilities and budget because you are giving so much?
  • Is feeling needed by others the primary thing that makes you feel good?

If you’re feeling inspired to provide service, the NJCU Center for Community Service and Volunteerism partners with a number of agencies that make a difference, both locally and globally. For more information, stop by GSUB 111, or call x-3585.

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