“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
Winston Churchill

The final step on the path to happiness asks you to “Spread some kindness – do a good turn for someone every day”. As poets and songwriters have noted, making someone else happy can do wonders for your own happiness.

Now science has gone so far as to prove that not only will altruism elevate your mood, it can also improve your overall health. A national survey of 3,000 people found that over 95% of those who regularly gave to others experienced a “helpers high”.

This sense of heightened physical sensation led to reduced levels of stress, alleviated depression and decreased the awareness of pain. The effects were most pronounced for those whoa gave to strangers. Researchers believe that it is because this kind of altruism erases the dividing lines between “us” and “them” and promotes a sense of unity.

Howard Andrews, PhD, of Columbia University analyzed the data and found that givers also reported fewer visits to the doctor’s office. In conclusion the study reported “Helping contributes to the maintenance of good health, and it can diminish the effect of diseases and disorders both serious and minor, psychological and physical.”

Kindness to others may even help you to live longer. A 10 year study of the physical, social and health activities of 2,700 men found that those who regularly volunteered had a death rate that was 2 ½ times lower than those who did not!

If you want to start reaping some of the rewards of an altruistic life, there are many ways to start. Begin by thinking about those things that you are passionate about. Perhaps it is the environment, animal welfare or homelessness. Open up your phone book and explore opportunities to volunteer with a local action center.

Also take the time to be aware of everyone you encounter in your daily activities. Is there someone at the office who needs help moving? Perhaps someone down the street has been ill and could use a helping hand. Look for opportunities to brighten someone’s day and you will end up brightening your own as well.

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