Catalyzing Happiness: Do Good; Feel Happy
“Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.” – Minor Meyers Jr.
Want to be happier? Then look for ways to make someone else happy.
“Numerous studies have found that happy people are more helpful,” says Dr. David Myers, a social psychologist at Hope College and author of The Pursuit of Happiness. “Those who’ve just found money in a phone booth are more likely to help a passerby with dropped papers. Those who feel successful are more likely to volunteer as a tutor.”
Carolyn Schwartz, a research professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School wanted to see if receiving monthly peer-support phone calls from fellow multiple sclerosis sufferers would benefit others with the disease. She found that the real beneficiaries were those who offered support – they experienced dramatic improvements in their quality of life—several times more so than those they were helping.
Paul Wink and Michele Dillon found the same results when they looked at data collected every decade on a group of San Francisco Bay Area residents beginning in the 1930s. Those who volunteered when they were adolescents were much less likely to become depressed, even as they got older.*
“When you’re experiencing compassion, benevolence, and kindness, they push aside the negative emotions. One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else,” says Stephen Post, Ph.D., who co-authored the book Why Good Things Happen to Good People with Jill Neimark.
Great places to get happy…
- Hospitals: Opportunities can include stocking nursing supplies, transporting patients with a nurse, bringing books to patients, and reading to patients.
- Nursing homes & Retirement Communities: Contact local retirement communities or nursing homes and ask to speak to the activities director, the director of recreation therapy, or the volunteer coordinator.
- Animal shelters: ”Local animal shelters and vets are a great place to start looking for opportunities,” says Chad Mouton, special events coordinator of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Volunteer centers: Many communities have a volunteer center that can help you find a way to be of service.
*Do Good, Feel Good by Lisa Farino for MSN Health & Fitness