We know that talking, exercise and a healthy diet can help us maintain good mental health, but what about the effect of helping others?
Research suggests that when we help others – strangers or people we know – we actually do ourselves good. Our brains release endorphins which are the same feel-good chemicals that are released when we exercise. Interestingly, the ‘high’ is followed by a feeling of calm.
Whether what we do for others is regular volunteering or a small unplanned act, it can be a powerful boost to our own happiness and wellbeing as it increases satisfaction with life, reduces stress, improves our mood, gives us a sense of meaning and makes us feel competent. It can also decrease the amount of time we spend dwelling on our own worries and problems.
In fact, research has shown that volunteers feel more hopeful in general and have fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.
So, any help we give, so long as it’s genuinely meant, might just be helping ourselves to be happier too.