Helping others is associated with higher levels of psychological and emotional wellbeing. Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger, including thanking someone, smiling, volunteering your time, joining a community group or looking out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.
Most people would agree that helping others is a good thing to do in itself. But research shows it can also improve your wellbeing.
Why Help Others
When we give to others, it activates the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help. Studies have shown that giving money away tends to make people happier than spending it on themselves.
Scientific studies show that helping others boosts happiness. It increases life satisfaction, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves our mood and reduced stress. It can help to take our minds off our own troubles too!
How Helping Others can improve your wellbeing
Even the smallest act can count, whether it’s a smile, a “thank you” or a kind word. Larger acts, such as volunteering at your local community centre, can also make a difference to the life of others and your own.
Whether large or small, helping others can make you feel happier and more satisfied with life, and strengthen or build your relationships with others.
Evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes,” – Harvard Medical School.
Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth. Research shows individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy people. Research also shows that happy people can live up to 7 years longer.
How to help others
Say “thank you” to someone for something they’ve done for you.
Phone a relative or friend who needs support or company.
Ask a colleague how they are and really listen to the answer.
Offer to lend a hand if you see a stranger struggling with bags or a pushchair.
Arrange a day out for you and a friend or relative.
Offer to help a relative with DIY or a colleague with a work project.
Sign up to a mentoring project, in which you give time and support to someone who will benefit from it.
Donate something you don’t use.
Volunteer in your local community. That might mean helping out at a local school, hospital or care home.
How to help others at home
Praise those you love.
Offer to help with the household chores or do your share of them.
Spend time at the end of each day touching base with those who are close to you.
Pick up after yourself.
Teach your children as many life skills as you can.
Help your kids with their homework.
Give someone a massage.
Offer to mind children or the elderly to give others a break. Listen to the concerns of your parents and ensure they are linked to the services they need to continue with their independence.
How to help others at work
Send a nice email: Just a quick note telling someone how much you appreciate them, or how proud you are of them, or just saying thank you for something they did.
Show appreciation, publicly: Praising someone on a blog or in front of co-workers, is a great way to make them feel better about themselves.
Just be there: When someone you know is in need, sometimes it’s just good to be there. Sit with them, talk, and help out if you can.
Be patient: Sometimes, it takes people more time to process a new skill, learn new information or respond to an event. Learn to be patient with them.
Be helpful: Offer to pick up messages, files or packages to save co-workers’ time.
Think of others: Refill your neighbour’s supplies, too, while you restock your own.
Be hardworking: Pick up files from the printer and fax machine.
“I started volunteering in a local neighbourhood initiative. I have been knocking on my neighbours’ doors to ask them to complete a survey about how well they know their neighbours. I now know so many more people and I have introduced a few of those I met to others I have met. It is wonderful to help people around me.”
“I was one that always thought, how can I help people [when] some days I can barely get out of bed myself. Then I came across some Youtube video on 5 ways and I realized that it can be as little as holding a door open for someone or letting them in ahead of me in traffic.”
“I was on [a] tram yesterday going to work and I noticed an older lady struggling to get her shopping trolley up the step. I jumped up and gave her a hand. No big deal, but I considered it my random act of kindness for the day.”