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Increase Health by Helping Others

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“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened.”

One of my favorite Buddhist quotes reminds me that happiness never decreases by being shared.

Sharing and spreading your happiness does nothing but increase happiness in your community and make the world a better place. Happiness and good deeds really are contagious.

Speaking of contagious, ever wonder what kind of health benefits come from those fuzzy feelings that come from helping others and spreading your joy?

Well let me tell you, my friend!

Numerous studies have found that volunteering has a huge impact on lowering rates of depression, especially for folks over 65. More specifically, a Duke University study concluded that individuals who participated in volunteer activity after having heart attacks experienced less despair and depression, which is often liked to mortality in post coronary artery disease patients. So ultimately, these happy, uplifting feelings can increase longevity and save your life!

In addition to reducing depression, volunteering has also been found to help chronic pain sufferers. A Boston College study examined how pain, depression, disability, and self-efficacy were affected through volunteering. Results showed that pain, depression and disability improved through volunteering, concluding that chronic pain may be alleviated through volunteering.

Volunteers report having an increased sense of connectedness through helping others -- an important aspect to spiritual health and wellness. In addition to an increased feeling of connectedness, helping others gives you a greater sense of purpose and meaning in life.

So often in the news today, our attention is brought to harsh and negative realities. Helping others makes it easier to focus on the positive aspects of life, thus increasing happiness that can be easily spread.

Start small by holding open a door, smiling at a stranger, paying the toll of someone behind you, or simply going out of your way to help a friend in need.

Or go big by planning a volunteer vacation. My good ol’ mom racked up enough miles to fly to Thailand and build houses through habitat for humanity, a life-changing and rewarding experience.

You don’t need to leave the country to volunteer, help others, and feel good! You can get an overall increased sense of well being, better mental and physical health by helping others in your community today.


Hidden health benefits of helping others. (n.d.). King County, Washington. Retrieved October 15, 2011, from http://www.kingcounty.gov/employees/HealthMatters/Newsletter/OlderNewsletters/Feb09/Hiddenhealthbenefits.aspx


Kellicker, P. (n.d.). Volunteer Vacations: The Health Benefits of Helping Others - Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center . Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center . Retrieved October 15, 2011, from http://www.bidmc.org/YourHealth/HolisticHealth/TravelandHealth.aspx?ChunkID=78992


Press Release: Volunteering Produces Health Benefits. (n.d.). Corporation for National and Community Service . Retrieved October 15, 2011, from http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/newsroom/releases_detail.asp?tbl_pr_id=687


Tran, M. (n.d.). 8 benefits of helping others - Sacramento health and happiness | Examiner.com. Welcome to Examiner.com | Examiner.com. Retrieved October 15, 2011, from

Reviewed October 17, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.