Let the world help me first,
I thought for a long time, before I start to do good deeds.
Holding the door open for a lady and so I already have, that’s not how it is. What went beyond that, however, passed me by like a wail to a deaf person. "Helpful", I thought, that’s what you call only people about whom you find nothing else good, at school, for example, when everyone should write down the positive qualities of a classmate who is actually just annoying and rightly has no friends.
Even today, I am far from being a Father Theresa, but the direction is right, I think. I don’t open my wallet for every beggar, sometimes I share as reluctantly as the most spoiled only child (I am one, too), and I probably still miss plenty of opportunities to help and do good, intentionally or unintentionally.
Well, anyway, I have been dealing with this subject for a long time, and today is the day when I write about it, and from when you and I can do more good, if you like and if it is possible for you to do so. Maybe the following reasons will help you help someone who needs your support once a day more often than before.
Moreover, helping is far from selfless; it’s also a recipe for better health and happiness for the person doing the helping – so doing good for yourself and others isn’t a contradiction at all. This is even more true the more stressed you are and the more you think you don’t have time for such things.
#1 Helping is healthy
Nature has arranged it this way: when we help, our body releases chemical substances into the blood that not only feel good and improve our mood, make the heart beat more calmly and reduce stress, but – if we help regularly – also prolong our life.
But see for yourself:
- Researchers asked 423 Detroit couples over the age of 65 whether they helped anyone other than each other in the past year, such as taking care of children, going shopping, moving, doing housework, and so on. The mortality rate of couples who helped others was only half that of non-helping couples over the next five years.
- From another study, it is known that people whose spouses died recovered significantly faster from the following depressive moods.
- Alcoholics Anonymous who helped each other fight addiction were twice as likely to be sober a year later and were also less depressed.
- Even among young people who are ordered to "volunteer," such effects are evident, although they were reluctant to participate to begin with. According to a study by the University of Wisconsin, participation also leads to less drug abuse, fewer teenage pregnancies and better grades in school.
- Various studies show that people who donate regularly also feel happier.
- Children who are described as caring and doing good for those around them are more protective of heart disease and depression as adults.
What’s the reason, why is helping so healthy?
- When we help someone, we take a risk and make ourselves vulnerable, we overcome a fear, the body releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which is also activated during orgasm as well as when breastfeeding a child and both relieves stress and strengthens trust and confidence.
- Just thinking about helping someone else or watching someone else do it, you can also experience how the body’s own drug dopamine is released, which lifts the mood and is also administered externally in the case of depression. This is known among other things from a study with Harvard students from 1988. Half of the students watched a video of Mother Theresa proving her big heart, the other half watched a video of people peeling potatoes. The result: the first group had a strongly positively changed biochemistry in the blood. With a similar result, the study was repeated, but this time the students in the test group were only supposed to remember to help. When it comes to actually helping, the benefits are still greater.
All this does not mean that you should forget about yourself and completely spend yourself. Helping can also be unhealthy:
- Helping with severe depression does not help, only with mild and moderate depression.
- Helping out of sheer obligation can be detrimental to your health. This applies equally to donations and to caring for bedridden parents.
- Helping too much – and cutting back too much on your own recreation – increases stress and raises the risk of stress-related illnesses. If you’re already well occupied with your own children, researchers say you’d better cultivate compassion toward them, such as learning to listen better to family members.
- By the way, more than two hours of weekly volunteering does not bring additional health benefits. Of course, the third hour a week can make a lot of difference, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on body and soul.
#2 Helping makes us grow
Helping makes us stronger. In our abilities, because we train them. Emotionally, because we open up. And spiritual, because we overcome the ego and use our energy for things greater than ourselves.
This is especially true when we bring our experience and strengths to the table. The best help is provided by people who have been through (or are going through) similar situations as those in need of help – scientists refer to this as the "miracle worker principle". In one study, for example, patients with multiple sclerosis helped others with the disease by providing phone support for 15 minutes a month, with the following result: helpers felt more confident, more self-efficacious and less depressed. A similar study revolves around patients with chronic pain who also helped fellow sufferers. These helpers not only fell into depression less often, but also reported relieved pain.
In volunteer work, research shows that personal aptitude and conviction in the cause are also prerequisites for staying on the ball longer and, for example, not just reading half the story to grandpa in the home before you go home and never show your face again. This applies to all colors and forms of good deeds. And doesn’t it also give us confidence to implement what we set out to do in the long run?
#3 Helping connects and creates meaning
Helping establishes a connection between the one who gives and the one who receives. Not only can this create deep friendships, but it can also create meaning. After all, we experience as meaningful what makes relationships recognizable. A sentence becomes meaningful when its words are related to each other. Like the words in the meaningful sentence, we humans connect in the meaningful life.
We also feel more needed on and rooted in the world. More than any pursuit of money and fame can ever accomplish.
Just when you are plagued by emptiness, when you are not grounded, a few good deeds could work wonders.
#4 Helping creates value
The principle that has allowed me to live off the Internet for over two and a half years (not rich like a sheik, but almost as free as a bird) is: create value. You may already know my text How to create value and make a living from your passion.
Those who support where support is needed and wanted create value for another. It brings him joy or takes away his suffering. If you support often enough, you create so much value that it flows back. Not necessarily in a 1:1 ratio – that’s not the point at all. But with enough value created, enough value flows back, emotionally, spiritually, financially, or all together.
Where real value is created, tracks are created. Your tracks, if you like.
"But Tim, but Tim, what good am I going to do in this world full of suffering?"
Every day people are humiliated, used, tortured, hurt, killed. People die every day from disease and starvation and stupid young car racers and senile old drivers who keep their licenses and their cars even when they are 103 years old and have as many dioprin (the other day a 35-year-old mother of three young children was hit by a retiree in a supermarket parking lot, she had survived it. Until he backed up again and crushed them between his car and another).
"In this world full of suffering, what can I do??", we often think. Or, as Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach put it: "You cannot help everyone! … said the narrow-minded – and doesn’t help anyone."
Here’s a short story about it:
One morning, after a violent storm, a man walks on the beach. Hundreds of starfish are scattered on the sand.
A little later, the man sees a little boy picking up one starfish after another and throwing them back into the sea. The man says to him: "In the sea there are millions of starfish, hundreds are lying here on the beach and you are all alone. It doesn’t matter if you throw some back from here, you can’t make much difference anyway."
That’s when the boy bends down again, picks up the next starfish and says, "It makes a difference for this one!"
– Origin unknown
In the words of Albert Schweitzer:
"The little you can do is a lot – if you just somehow take pain, hurt and fear away from a being."
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