by Don Ingwerson
Life coach Cheryl Hunter challenges her listeners to help others in order to help themselves. Her counsel suggests that by helping others you get rid of those purposeless, empty, and unfulfilling feelings that can affect health. She is not alone in that counsel; helping others can take countless forms and come from many motivations.
This is not new counsel. In the Bible we read similar statements: “Freely you have received, freely give.” – Matt 10:8
Recently, there has been much research to develop a roadmap showing how helping others helps to promote happiness and health.
David Aderman in an early study found that those who were in a positive mood (happy) were more likely to help others in some manner. Giving and happiness appear to be closely connected in the research. In an experiment with children, happy children were inclined to give to others more than their unhappy counterparts. Dr. Andrew Weil suggests that being kind and generous to others can make you happy, and that this happiness spreads upon contact. If you associate with an unhappy person, it may affect your giving. He suggests that care should be taken with whom we associate; if that contact is negative or unhappy it could lower your ability to be happy and share, consequently reducing your interest in giving.
We get a glimpse of how giving can do this in a study reported by Robert Emmons, a U.C. Davis psychologist and editor in chief of the Journal of Positive Psychology. In one of his studies, “those who regularly practice grateful thinking improved their happiness score by 25%, which in turn is a prerequisite for the willingness to give.”
A 19th century Christian writer, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” Science and Health, p.57
My own experience of helping others has never failed to bless me. It has enriched my life with an ever-widening band of friends as a result of being helpful to them in ways that were meaningful to them, even when it appeared that it would be costly to me.
Recently, I offered our home free of charge for a wedding to a couple we knew in the community. The good feelings resulting from helping them and interacting with the guests created good will, happiness, and healthy attitudes for me and for my family. In validating Cheryl Hunter’s counsel that “if you’re focused upon others, you don’t see your own problems,” giving seems to act as a “rising tide that lifts all boats,” creating positive feelings within as well as in those whom the giving touches.
Article published October 1, 2012 and first published in Blogcritics