Helping Others is Good for Us, Physically, Emotionally, and Socially

Last holiday season I gave several friends Cami Walker’s book 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your life. The book is about her experience of doing something for another person every day as a way of coping with the serious disease, multiple sclerosis (MS). While her intent was to do something for someone else for 29 days, half way through she was feeling so much better that she pledged that on the 29th day she would launch a website ( encouraging others to do the same.  This resulted in 11,000 people sharing their experiences and thousands of dollars was raised for charities.

That same holiday season, in the December, 2011 issue of Ode Magazine, one of my favorite reads,  there was a comprehensive article on how helpful it is to give—not just for others, but for our own improved health and well-being. The author cites many examples of how good for us it is to give for others.

One of the major points that caught my eye pertained to the research of Stephen Post, Founder and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at Stony Brook University Medical Center. His research has shown that  as humans we are hard-wired to give to others and we are rewarded when we carry out compassionate acts for others with the release of chemicals which make us feel good. These chemicals include dopamine and seratonin. He has also co-authored Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer Healthier Life by the Simple Act of Giving. While I have not read this book yet, it is certainly on my list as I, like many survivors have experienced first hand that one of the best ways to heal from our own losses is to get involved in helping others—and I want to know all I can about how others are improving their own lives by living this philosophy.