Did you know that doing good has health benefits?
According to James Doty, director of the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University, when we care for others and engage in activities that help, it results in lowering our blood pressure and heart rate. Research actually shows that in the long term, it can help us live longer. On top of that, the good deeds we do can inspire others to do the same.
“We’re adapted to recognise suffering and pain. For us to respond is hard-wired into our brain’s pleasure centres. After we lend a helping hand, we receive oxytocin or dopamine bursts that result in increased blood flow to our reward centres. In short, we feel good when we help,” added Doty.
For example, Peggy Callahan is a documentary producer covering social justice issues and a co-founder of two non-profit organisations that help people who are enslaved or caught in human trafficking. What she does is not easy, but it brings her happiness. Thanks to neuroscience research, she understands why.
“When you do an act of good, you get a neurotransmitter ‘drop’ in your brain that makes you happy,” Callahan said. Also, there is a multiplier effect. “Someone who witnesses that act also experiences the same thing, and remembering that act makes it happen all over again.”
She wanted to leverage on that. The result was Anonymous Good, a virtual community and website where people post stories or photos of acts of kindness they’ve carried out, observed, or received. For each act posted, website sponsors make a donation to feed the hungry, free people who are enslaved, plant a tree for cleaner air, or dig a well for clean water.
“One act of good is much more than just one act of good,” says Callahan. “It’s part of a much bigger force.” A force for good.
This article was adapted from ‘Altruism: Individual Serving‘, which was written by Carol Hart Metzker and published in the June 2016 issue of The Rotarian.
The source of the image featured in this article is ‘The Biology of Altruism‘, which was written by Christopher Bergland, and published in 2012 in Psychology Today.