How helping others helps to boost your own happiness?

Six weeks before the end of 2020 I had a terrible accident. Now, nine months later, I’m making progress and have decided that it’s time to give back and help those who helped me when I needed it. Therefore I’ve decided to raise money for the hospital where they took such compassionate care of me. It feels great that now I can help them. It makes me happy to know that now I’ll be the one who is helping others. I find myself smiling and get this feeling of excitement when I think about it. Isn’t it interesting how helping others helps us to feel so much better about ourselves? Have you ever thought about why being helpful makes you feel this way?

How helping others contribute to our happiness?

It isn’t so surprising when you think that by helping others, our brain increases the production of the neurochemical drivers of happiness. Those are oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone, sometimes called ‘Love Hormone’. It is responsible for increasing a sense of connection to others. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that increases our motivation and boosts our mood. And serotonin is connected to our feeling of well-being. Those three working together are known as happiness trifecta. So when the level of oxytocin increases, so does also dopamine and serotonin. When this happens, it boosts not only our mood but also our kindness. It drives our feeling to help others. And this ‘good feeling’ outcome ultimately results in wanting to repeat the whole process again and again.

Helping others will be rewarded

You could say then that the reason behind it may seem to be a little bit selfish. Perhaps it’s worth questioning yourself, why do I help others? How do I feel when I’m not helping others? Am I only helping because of the feeling of satisfaction, or perhaps am I after acknowledgement and praise from others? Those are important questions to answer. But as long as it’s not only selfish reasons behind your help, there is nothing wrong with feeling satisfaction or happiness when helping others.

It feels good to be helpful, and acknowledgement from others can often motivate us to do good in the future too. But keep in mind that good publicity or gaining respect shouldn’t be your primary or solitary reason behind helping others. Remember God calls you to walk the path of humility. Trust Him. He will exalt you in the time and way He sees is right.

Act of Kindness

So give to those who can’t give you back, those who can’t return the favour. It doesn’t have to cost you a fortune. Only you know what you can afford. But there are some things that we all can afford, so don’t hesitate to spread them around. Love, kindness, acknowledgement or acceptance… Simply a smile, a kind word…or perhaps a comment under this post or a donation for a good cause if you can afford it. It’s always up to you as the main thing is that it comes from your heart. We don’t have to always look at what it brings us in return. We can help from pure selflessness. And the best thing is that one act of kindness generates another one. There is a ripple effect; it is contagious.

I got this feeling by watching Sir Captain Tom and his walking challenge where he raised money for NHS charities. It inspired me to start my own challenge – baking 100 cupcakes for keyworkers during the first lockdown. It was like I wanted to contribute with my little bit as well. I believe that when we give to others, God gives back to us. My mum used to say be kind to others and show love and compassion for others as it will come to you back when you least expect it.

How can helping others be of a benefit to you?

Helping others has so many others benefits. One of them is that helping others can enhance our sense of purpose and identity. It reveals our true self-worth. It can therefore aid us to overcome the limiting beliefs we have about ourselves, especially when we start to doubt our worth and feel more like a burden to the world. Helping others can show us that we do have value and can make a difference.

Support the Good Cause

See, when I first got the idea of doing something to help the hospital where I was after my accident, I didn’t really know where to start. I just felt that I wanted to do something for them, as a way of saying thank you for all their care. After the accident, I felt pretty helpless and couldn’t do much myself. I couldn’t walk or take care of myself and had to rely on the help of others. As I was making progress in my recovery and was gaining more independence and confidence, I thought that now it’s my turn to help them.

Completing a 10-mile sponsored walk around the Isles of Scilly at end of August would be a challenge as I haven’t walked that far in a single day since the accident and the pain is still there, it did however give me the feeling of being needed. And when Friends of Chichester Hospitals, who I teamed up with for this event, came with a few proposals on how the funds could be used I automatically knew the answer.

One of the choices was the suggestion that the money could go to the Occupational Therapy team. They were expecting delivery of 15 special wheelchairs. What made them special was that they come with accessory cushions to ensure greater comfort and support. Whilst in the hospital I used a wheelchair just like these as well. From my own experience, I know how important they are for the patients.

Given this, I didn’t even have to think about it and automatically agreed to support this project. Especially as the occupational therapy department isn’t the one that normally attracts huge donations as most donors choose something with a higher public profile. I knew, therefore, that this is something I would like to do as it will make a difference to the whole department and the patients. And you can support this good cause too – you are only one click away from making a contribution and help to make a difference. So why not make someone’s else day today?

Help others, help yourself

Thinking of all the patients who are in hospitals currently or fighting their battles at home also helps me put things in my life into perspective and realise how lucky I am to still be making progress in my recovery. Helping others makes us feel rewarded, fulfilled and appreciate our own life. It makes us see things more positively and be optimistic about our circumstances. Research showed that altruistic emotions and behaviour have a positive impact on our health, wellbeing and longevity. Helping others boosts our happiness and wellbeing, as long as it doesn’t feel overwhelming to us.

Other research shows that another form of helping others, volunteering, is also something that can benefit us. Volunteering has many beneficial effects. It can boost your well-being and mental health as well as life satisfaction and survival. And volunteering can also reduce depression, loneliness and isolation as we meet and connect with other people which can lead to new friendships.

You can make a difference

So whether you decide to volunteer, make someone’s day better through a random act of kindness or unexpected compliment or even make a donation to support a good cause know that it doesn’t just make a difference to the recipient but also brings benefit to yourself.

If you are stuck for ideas feel free to sponsor me on my walk, donations can be made via this link: Crowdfunding to support St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester on JustGiving

Thank you so much for your donations and all your support.

Follow Journeyofsmiley to see how I’m progressing with the preparation for my challenge and how the big day will go for me.

Katy is a trauma-informed well-being writer who integrates mental health and faith into her words. Katy shares her journey of overcoming trauma on her Journeyofsmiley blog, where you can access her free e-book 7 Keys To Self-Healing, A Trauma Survivor's Guide.

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