Here’s a unique way we can help ourselves: by helping others. It seems counterintuitive to some, but there is enormous psychological benefit to empathy.
Helping Others Helps Ourselves
Imagine you’re in a support group for people struggling with drug withdrawal. A person in that group is looking for suggestions. It’s a strange factor of the human mind that most people will find it easier to offer that person advice, than to think of the same advice when we have the exact same problem. By offering suggestions to another, we are also thinking of ways that can improve our own situation. But that’s not the only reason why you can help others and gain benefits from them at the same time.
Imagine a second scenario where you have a friend who is suffering from a drug addiction. They have confided in you that they want to clean up, but need help. You help them make the call to a Florida drug detox center, they get the help they need, and your friend is able to recover. Can you imagine how great that would feel?
Helping Others Just Feels Good
There have been quite a few studies that altruism is built into our species. Elder people who have been given potted plants to care for tend to live longer. A study of people who volunteer for around 6 hours a week show that those who volunteer are happier than those who don’t (though perhaps it’s the other way around and they volunteer because they’re happy). Kindness has also shown to be contagious. If people see others being helpful, we’re more likely to mirror their actions increasing the happiness all around.
There is also some evidence that there may be positive physical effects of benevolence. At least one study suggested that people with chronic pain who volunteered felt a reduction in their pain. Elderly volunteers have been shown to have a lower blood pressure when they help others.
Most importantly, helping others gives us a project that we can get satisfaction from. It gives us a purpose, a raison d’être. So whatever stage of recovery you’re in, be selfish and help others.
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