A new meta-analysis in the journal Psychological Bulletin shows that helping others also improves your own health and happiness.
It adds to the growing body of scientific literature showing that helping others helps you, too, in more ways than you might expect. More on that below.
But first, the new meta-analysis mentioned above (full PDF here) looked at more than 200 previous studies totaling nearly 200,000 participants.
A modest association was found between “prosocial behavior” and well-being.
According to the study’s lead author, Bryant P.H. Hui, pro-social behaviors like altruism, cooperation, trust and compassion form the “necessary ingredients of a harmonious and well-functioning society”.
“It’s part of humanity’s common culture,” he said, “and our analysis shows that it also contributes to mental and physical health.”
Previous research had already found that people who engage in this type of behavior are happier than those who don’t.
They also have better mental and physical health.
But until now there has been a lack of evidence linking prosocial behavior to the positive outcomes it brings to the ‘helper’.
The benefit of helping others depends on the situation.
Not all acts of kindness bring the same benefit to the helper.
Relevant factors include the type of kindness offered and the age and gender of the donor.
Other demographic factors also play a role.
For example, the study found that random gestures of kindness, such as helping an elderly neighbor carry groceries, had a greater effect on well-being than more formal types of donations, such as volunteering for a charity at a predetermined time.
Hui suggests that this may be because the spontaneous and casual nature of informal friendliness may make it easier to form social bonds, which strongly impact happiness levels.
Similarly, the inherent variation in informal giving makes it less likely to become stale or monotonous.
Age also plays a role. Younger donors reported greater overall well-being and mental health.
Older donors, on the other hand, benefited more from improved physical health.
In addition, women generally showed a stronger association between prosociality and well-being than men.
Happiness is helping others: the pursuit of more meaning in life
In addition, the researchers found a stronger association between kindness and “eudaimonic” well-being (which is related to finding meaning has to do in life) than between kindness and “hedonic” well-being (which has to do with happiness and positive feelings).
In summary, this study “suggests a small and significant association between prosocial behavior and well-being,” the authors write.
It also provides researchers with important insights into what types of prosociality are affected and how people’s age and gender play a role.
Study: “Rewards of kindness? A Meta-Analysis of the Link Between Prosociality and Well-Being” (full-text PDF)Authors: Bryant PH Hui, Jacky CK Ng, Erica Berzaghi, Lauren A Cunningham-Amos, and Aleksandr Kogan Published in: Psychological BulletinPublished Date: 3. September 2020DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/bul0000298Photo: by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Five great ideas how you can give back
As the old saying goes, what you give comes back to you. Do you have a passion for helping others? The best way to give away your time or money is to give it in a way that helps others.
Here are five great ideas on how to give back to the community.
- Help with your hands, literally: Build Abroad is a non-profit organization with a specific focus on volunteering in the construction industry.
- Start a fundraiser: GoFundMe breaks down the basics here: define your goal, choose your platform, tell your story, spread the word and say thank you.
- Organize a charity event: Check out Eventbrite’s 10-step plan.
- Give your time to volunteer: Walden University lists here 10 Great Ways to Do It.
- Become a Coach or Mentor: The Open University offers a free course to get you started.
Four helpful links that explain why you should help others help yourself
- Mental Floss provides a helpful overview of the wis scientific benefits of helping others; for example, they find that it increases longevity and happiness while reducing chronic pain and lowering blood pressure. It is also a good example for the children.
- In the same vein, University College London points out that helping others creates a sense of belonging and purpose while boosting self-esteem and one’s own Mind strengthens from optimism. It also creates stronger friendships.
- Time Magazine even recently called helping others the secret to happiness, with tips on how to avoid it Return to being tripped over guilt.
- Finally, Lifehack suggests some other practical benefits of helping, such as creating a circle of favors that eventually pays off, and the free promotional aspects of volunteering ; it also looks great on your CV, they conclude.
Dictionary Corner: Synonyms for helping others
Need another word for helping others? And what’s a good synonym for “helping others” that isn’t just a simple word you already know like “support” or “cooperate” or “incite”?
Here are some suggestions, from popular idioms to some useful phrasal verbs.
- bail someone out
- help out
- be there for someone
- pay in
- do someone a favor
- do someone a good deed
- get involved
- get involved
- give someone a good start
- give someone a leg
- play along
- save someone’s skin
Songs about it to help others
Need a song to sing at your group’s campfire event? Or maybe you want to chant some kind of “mantra” when you’re at work? Below are five great songs about people helping others, dating back half a century. Helping others in need seems to be a topic that never gets old.
9 Great Quotes About Helping Others
Need more inspiration? Below is a list of nine famous quotes about helping others. And feel free to make up your own!
- “If you’re among the happiest 1 percent of humanity, you owe it to the rest of humanity to think of the other 99 percent.” ― Warren Buffett
- “Love isn’t patronizing and charity isn’t about compassion, it’s about love. Charity and love are the same – with charity you give love, so don’t just give money, instead reach out your hand.” ― Mother Teresa
- “No one has ever become poor by giving.” ― Anne Frank
- “No one is useless in this world who lightens another’s burden.” ― Charles Dickens
- “We are not born only for ourselves (Non nobis solum nati sumus)” ― Cicero
- “The best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and something to do . Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and do good things, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ― Barack Obama
- “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It’s meant to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, so that it makes a difference that you’ve lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “This is the only thing we can do, the one thing has lasting meaning. That’s why we’re here. To make each other feel safe.” ― Andre Agassi
- “You haven’t lived today until you’ve done something for someone who can never repay you.” ― John Bunyan
Other Popular Recent Articles:
- The Meaning of Angel Number 444: This number symbolizes guidance and protection, but most of all it means taking action.
- Why do you keep dreaming about the same person? It could mean that you have unresolved feelings for her.
- What do dreams of tornadoes mean? Here’s what you need to know.