Many years ago when working with depressed patients, I learned about altruism therapy or as Dr. Sol Gordon called it: mitzvah therapy.
New research is showing that not only do altruistic acts help others but they also can increase our health, longevity and happiness. Using MRI scans scientists have identified specific regions of the brain that are stimulated during the performance of kind actions. When you help someone your oxytocin level rises and dopamine and endorphins are released into the brain. These neurochemical reactions are similar to the upbeat feeling we have after cardiovascular exercise.
The “Longevity Project” followed 1500 people starting in 1921 when they were in grade school, throughout their lives. One of the significant indicators for longevity was altruism. Those that lent a helping hand to others lived the longest.
In addition to the long term benefits helping others, creates brighter mood, increased optimism, confidence and energy. I encourage you as you go through your day to create opportunities to help others. In that process, you may notice how you are helping yourself as well.
A good technique is to look for opportunities to help others in small ways and before bed, scan for actions you took that helped others. You’ll sleep better too!