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Altruism is good for you02-10-2011
Cynics don’t believe that good deeds are rewarded in kind, but studies indicate that being nice to others is also good for you. Research has found that helping others can actually reduce stress and improve your mental health. A study of churchgoers found that people who offer love and support to others have better mental health than those who only receive help. Being habitually altruistic can raise dopamine levels in the brain, which makes the altruist happier and calmer, and gives them a greater feeling of self-worth. An added plus is that helping others may help you fend off your own problems and anxiety. You focus outside the self – away from the inward-looking nature of anxiety and depression.
But the benefit of being helpful does not merely come from the good deed. The recipient’s mood is likely to be improved by your deed, and through empathy, your mood benefits too. So good deeds keep on giving. You help someone, which makes you feel good; they feel better, and make you feel even better. However, you should not give beyond your abilities – if you do, you may experience worse mental health as a result.
Origins of altruism
Scientists believe that the propensity for altruism evolved, because it communicated to a potential mate that a person could be a good parent. This increased their likelihood of finding a mate and producing offspring. Altruism, when broadly practised, is also a very canny way of making life easier. Not only does being nice and helpful make you happier and saner – it also reduces the amount of work you have to do. A study of common etiquette found that acts of courtesy may have a practical, shared motivation. If you hold the door for someone, or they hold it for you, it reduces work for those involved, making life easier for everyone.
In a nutshell, altruism will make you happier, help you find a partner, and reduce the amount of work you have to do.
By: Tene Sommer
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