Altruism is when we put the needs of others before our own.  Whether it’s helping an elderly woman carry her groceries, making a cup of tea for your spouse, or building a well in a third world country, Big or Small, helping someone else can make a huge difference in someone’s day, week, or life.

Besides the obvious outcome of making the recipient feel good, helping other people can have a measurable effect on our own well-being too. Both psychological benefits and physical health benefits can be enjoyed when you put others first.

Over this past year, I’ve made it a point to help at least one person every day.  It truly is rewarding, and I’m noticing improvements in all areas of my life since I’ve started focusing on my own acts of altruism.

Here are 5 health benefits of helping others:

  1. Helping others increases happy neurotransmitters.

That happy feeling you get after helping someone is actually a change in the neurotransmitters in your brain.  This rush of emotion is often followed by longer periods of calm and lower levels of overall stress. Helping others improves social support, encourages us to lead a more physically active lifestyle, distracts us from our own problems, allows us to engage in a meaningful activity and improves our self-esteem and competence.

  1. Helping Others keeps things in perspective.

Helping others in need allows us to see how others’ lives are different from our own, and can give us a fresh perspective of how blessed we actually are. This can allow us to stress less about our own misfortunes and feel better about our current status in life.

  1. Helping others keeps us from getting sick.

Giving back to the community increases positive feelings and reduces stress, therefore improving our immune systems.

  1. Helping Others reduces negative feelings

Negative emotions can cause mental and physical distress.  Helping others takes away those negative emotions and allows us to improve our health by having a positive mind.

  1. Helping Others helps us live longer.

Studies have shown that people who serve others live longer than those who don’t choose to put others before themselves.  Seriously.  Being nice will increase your lifespan!

If you aren’t engaged in regular acts of altruism, I encourage you to start.  Sign up to volunteer your time and talents to those less fortunate, teach something you know well to those who can use the information, or resolve to be nicer to your co-workers.  I promise that your mind and body will thank you for it!