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Helper’s High: The Healthy Addiction of Giving

The act of giving or Altruism have numerous benefits than every human knew / Photo by: Nungning20 via Shutterstock

 

Charles Darwin, a biologist famous for the Theory of Evolution, claimed that giving is a vital component to social instincts. He even went so far as to say that all social instincts lead to the golden rule which is “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye to them likewise.” In modern English, it is translated as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

It turns out that giving does not only promote social acceptance but also affects a person positively emotionally, psychologically and physically.

There is more to altruism and charitable acts than wanting to purely live a saintly life. There is in fact, a scientific explanation for it. This is the very reason why some individuals have an addiction to doing random acts of kindness. This is known as the “Helper’s high.”

 

The Psychological Backstory of Altruism

Altruism is defined iresearchnet.com as “a motive for helping behavior that is primarily intended to relieve another person’s distress with little or no regard for the helper’s self-interest.”

It is driven by unselfish concern for others which is intentional, voluntary and motivated.

There is a research cited by livescience.com that shows that humans have developed altruistic traits in order to be able to preserve the human race. They are said to have evolved to be more compassionate and cooperative to be able to survive and thrive in this world.

Dacher Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, emphasized,

“Because of our vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival is to take care of others. Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate.”

This was in reference to Darwin’s book, The Descent of Man, where he mentioned benevolence 99 times. He noted that love, sympathy, and cooperation are natural as a pelican providing fish for a blind pelican who is a member of their flock.

Keltner added, “As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct.”

 

 

What is Helper’s High?

Several studies prove that the brain rewards individuals who often engage in altruistic acts.

The reason for this is that everytime a person thinks about giving or doing other good deeds, the brain’s reward center releases neurochemicals like endorphins. The effects of the act of giving, or merely anticipating it, was discovered to resemble that of exercise.

The aftereffects of exercise, which produce endorphins, is called by scientists as the “runner’s high”. In a similar fashion, since giving is also said to make the brain produce endorphins, the phenomenon behind a person’s inclination to keep giving was labeled as “Helper’s high.”

This term was first coined when the research conducted in 2006 which was spearheaded by Jorge Moll, to investigate the physical changes that occur in the brain when a human takes part in the act of giving.

The results of their study showed that the part of the brain activated in the participants of the experiment while thinking about doing acts of altruism was also the same area that was usually activated by food or sex. Other regions of the brain that were stimulated were connected to pleasure rewards for activities such as looking at babies and keeping in touch with romantic partners.

 

Giving something to one and another genuinely becomes a trait called Altruism

 

Benefits of Kindness/Altruism

According to the Honey Foundation, giving does not only benefit those on the receiving and but it also has many benefits for the giver. When a person gives, these are positive effects it will have on them:

1. Feeling happier

It is reported that five random acts of kindness within a week will increase happiness lasting up to three months.

 

2. People who are kind and compassionate are found to be more successful

When kindness in the work environment is promoted, staff are less likely to skip work and have the tendency to work harder when their workmates are also kind towards them.


3. It increases children’s feelings of happiness and well-being

As a result of teaching children kindness, this makes them less likely to bully others and it improves their friends.

 

4. It boosts the immune system

There was a study that exposed that students who were asked to watch a movie of Mother Teresa's charitable acts towards the poor in Calcutta had produced more antibodies which boosted their immune system. Even after an hour, the level of antibodies remained the same.

It is also revealed that assisting a neighbor, engaging in volunteering activities, and donating goods and services give an individual more health benefits than exercise and from quitting smoking.

 

5. It boosts energy

With the increase in the production of serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin, also known as the happy chemicals, it helps to make a person feel stronger and more energized.

 

6. It lowers heart rate

It improves blood circulation which shields the heart from strokes and heart attacks.

 

7. It balances cortisol levels

When the level of cortisol is balanced, it reduces the feeling of inner stress. With lesser stress, the aging process is slowed down.

 

8. It makes a person live a longer and more satisfied life

A study shows that people who volunteer are less likely to have a major illness. There is also a research that found that those who volunteered had a 44% reduction in early death, which points to evidence that it has a greater impact than exercise, WebMD says. This is proof that people who give more are also able to live longer.

 

9. It promotes laughter and inner joy

Due to this, stress hormones are lessened which also lowers blood pressure and reduces pain.

 

 

Give to Live (Healthier and Longer)

Stating that performing random acts of kindness, encouraging generosity and doing good deeds is essential for human existence is not just part of the dogma of most religious institutions and organizations who clamor for human rights. Scientific data shows persuasive evidence that the idea of giving one’s time, talents and treasures is a powerful channel to seeking one’s purpose, going beyond hardships, finding the essence of life and feeling accomplished.

Apparently, not all addictions can lead to a human’s self-destruction. The overwhelming desire to help others or the craving to do random acts of charity does not only make a person feel good but is also actually crucial to human health and survival. Engaging in random acts of kindness is not merely something that shows an individual's conformity to a moral code, it is actually one of the factors of having better health and a mechanism that helps people become more adaptive to their surroundings.

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