If you are looking for a simple, free way to enhance your health it may be as easy as lending a hand to another. Research suggests that people who choose to volunteer their time and efforts to aid others reap a host of physical and psychological benefits that enhance their well-being, quality, and even quantity of life. Serving others creates an other-focused experience that elevates mood, resulting in what is commonly referred to as the helper’s high. This type of prosocial behavior ultimately improves the life of the giver and the receiver, having a trickledown effect on others in society.
It may appear that serving others is purely an altruistic behavior, but the facts are over time givers can lower their blood pressure, decrease chronic pain, reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke and improve their immune function; all from engaging in service to others. The scientific literature shows that those who serve others can combat depression, reduce loneliness, experience improved self-esteem and are overall happier than people who do not give of their time and talents.
Imagine these health-enhancing exchanges from a broader perspective on a continuum from the more subtle in the moment gesture, to the grander acts of assistance as shown in the figure below. Think about how you might infuse this approach to health promotion in your daily life for your benefit and the benefit of others. While you are at it, pause and hold those moments for an extra beat and feel the power of serving and giving.