It's Healthy to Be Kind


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By definition, altruism is "the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being others." So, to break it down a little bit more, it means that you act kindly to others, even when you may not be receiving something in return.

I had no idea there was a word for this a few years ago. It was a big pet peeve of mine when I would see people refuse to help out unless they were getting paid or given something else in return. I grew up in a household where my parents were always so generous and eager to make everyone feel comfortable and at home, it was just how we lived. As I grew older, I noticed that not everyone was so kind and that the world that I had felt so comfortable in became a much darker and surprising place.

Being altruistic is beneficial to one's health. There are lots of books out there these days on this practice. A popular, Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It's Good to Be Good" begins with saying, "Altruistic (other-regarding) emotions and behaviors are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity."

Another study was conducted and followed 846 people from the Michigan area. They were interviewed about stressful events they had experienced and also whether or not they had helped friends or family members in the past year. The conductors of the experiment concluded that, "helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality."

Many use altruistic methods as a way to relieve stress and studies have found that those who volunteer lead happier lives. An article published on The Independent (a UK based website) included stories of people who made a difference in their lives by being altruistic:

"I sit on a chair next to my bath wearing a black binbag. I crook my neck at an angle as my sister sprays my hair - and half of my face - with warm water. She dispenses shampoo into her hands and massages it into my head. Her small, familiar hands with blotches of eczema touch and massage my scalp, loving me, ridding me of any last trace of "hospital smell". I cannot wash my own hair because I cannot raise my left arm. I have just had an operation to relieve my body of breast cancer. I am terrified. I am alive. I am loved. But now, I have clean hair."

Go out of your way to help someone up if they've taken a tumble. Or better yet, if someone is stumbling home, offer them an arm. If it has health benefits, then why not?



Sources:

Post, Stephen G. "Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It's Good to Be Good." International 
                Journal of Behavioral Medicine 12.2 (2005): 66-77. Power of Essence. Web.

Nauert, Rick. "Doing for Others Also Benefits Health of Altruistic." PsychCentral. N.p., 6 Feb. 
                2013. Web.

Jarvis, Allice-Azania. "Cool to Be Kind: The Advantages of Being Altruistic." The Independent. 
                Independent Digital News and Media, 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 05 Dec. 2013.

3 Comments

There is a debate going about whether altruism truly exists. Do we do kind things for no reason at all or is it because of the good feeling that we get when we do those things? Especially when people give their lives for others, why did they do it? Because they didn't think they would die? Because they wanted to be immortalized? Or simply because they wanted to save a stranger. How can we say we do things for no reward when we inherently get a reward. http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201203/does-true-altruism-exist

Telling me to do something for a stranger for no reason, and then saying, it'll make me feel good, is in essence telling me to do something to feel good. Which is defiantly all the pay we should expect for doing something nice for others. I mean, I've never helped somebody and have felt bad about it. But there are times, when I'll see somebody walking behind me, I'll go out of my way to hold the door for somebody and not even get a smile from them. It still feels good to help. But acknowledging help is also good, right?

This makes me think of what Andrew was talking about in class the other day. Where if you hold the right poses you'll feel more powerful and it makes you more powerful. I just think its kind of funny how things like this work but I always thought being kind would improve who you were. I like to think of it as good karma but I like to see the science behind it with the supportive studies.

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