Want to Improve Your Health & Get Some Sleep, Try Altruism!

Sleep Better from Altruism

You first heard the idea in kindergarten: Share your toys. Later on, you were taught, “do unto others.”  And as an adult, you may have gotten the advice that the best way to feel better about yourself is to help the less fortunate.

No matter how you got the message, the concept of altruism is one that is ingrained (or should be) in our collective social conscience. Not only because acts of altruism benefit society as a whole but because, darn it, it just feels right!

So volunteering and giving feel good. But is altruism actually good for your health? The Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science tackled that question in 2009 and came to the conclusion that …it is.  Continue reading

The Three Degrees of Altruism – Volunteer Social Networking

volunteer social-networkHave you ever wondered if social networking promotes cooperative behavior?  The nature of human social networking—our ability to connect deeply and instantaneously with friends, family, and other individuals—would seem to suggest that social networking can foster cooperation with others. Until recently, there was no scientific proof that social networking itself leads to altruistic cooperation. If one person helps another, could a third party be influenced simply by participating in the same network?

In an attempt to answer this question, Fowler and Christakis (2009) researchers from Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego designed an experiment (n=240) to test whether people really do “pay it forward,” or pass along altruistic behavior through indirect, “networked” interaction (Experiment Details).

The results of the experiment suggest—objectively—that cooperative, altruistic behavior can spread as far as three degrees within a social network (from person to person to person). In other words, by helping others, we can create a “cascade” of altruistic behavior! Volunteer Social Network

Because each “degree” in a social network represents exponential growth, helping your friend could trigger a wave of altruistic behavior in hundreds or even thousands of people!

Does this research make you think differently about the impact of your altruistic actions?

Check out AltruHelp.com to trigger your own volunteer network.


How to Live Past 100?

Lillian Davis was about to celebrate her 101st birthday—but you’d never know it—this centenarian takes only two prescription medications, lives alone in an apartment, and…still volunteers at the International Dyslexia Association after more than twenty years.

In fact, volunteering might just be Lillian’s secret to long life: She claims that her time stuffing envelopes for the IDA has helped her stay “physically and mentally healthy.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that she plans on volunteering “as long as [she] can.”

Could volunteering really be the key to living healthily into (very) old age? Research (and our recent blog post on the science behind altruism) shows that taking time to help others is as hard-wired into our brains as having sex and eating food: it’s a basic need that many of us don’t fulfill. So maybe it’s not such a big stretch to think that altruism is the secret to a long and healthy life.

What do you think? Could volunteering make you live forever?

Source

Selfless Therapy Part II: Sharing as Giving – A Prisoner’s Perspective

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AltrUHelp

This marks the second post in AltrUHelp’s new series of guest blog posts from industry professionals.  Jordan Nacht is a Mental Health Counselor from New York and a thought leader on the topic of altruism in the therapy arena.

As a mental health counselor who works with parolees, probation and pre-trial clients, I’ve heard countless anecdotes of the horrors of prison life.  As it is with most daunting experiences, there are points of happiness and growth in these perceivably “dark” experiences.  I make it a point to assume a nonjudgmental and unconditionally positive stance toward my clients (which is utterly necessary for any therapist). To do so, I search for these shining lights—redeeming, uplifting moments—however bright or dim.

I often ask my clients a particular question regarding their time in prison: “How did you keep your sanity,” or more pointedly, “how did you maintain the goodness I see inside you while stuck in such a ‘bad’ environment?”  This question can elicit such emotion that clients decline to answer–in which case I revisit the question once a more trusting relationship has been established.  Oftentimes, though, a response comes forth immediately. It never fails to relate to altruism.  In this piece, I will depict some of these experiences, those through which incarcerated persons maintain their humanity. Read More

Selfless Therapy Part I: Insights on Altruism in Mental Health

This post marks the beginning of a new series of guest blog posts from industry professionals. We will be highlighting how altruism plays a role in the careers of several individuals. Today we are spotlighting Jordan Nacht, a Mental Health Counselor from New York on the topic of altruism in the therapy arena. Thank you Jordan for this profound and inspirational post:

Selfless Therapy: Insights on Altruism in Mental Health Part I

As a therapist who works in a private practice, I have encountered the mentally ill and substance abusers in the guise of convicted felons, parolees, average joes, and the elite.  Being out of grad school for only eight months, I am already beginning to reap the rewards of the interaction commonly referred to as “The therapeutic relationship.”  Many clients have inadvertently inspired me in a way I never thought they would, and have done so through the sharing of their selfless experiences.  Now, assuming generalizations from the specifics of each client’s case would be like bringing together thirty differing instruments of varying make, tone, pitch, and intensity to create harmony.  Yet, somehow it works.  To some conductors it just makes sense, and the end result is often an orchestra exuding such power and such awe-inspiring beauty that it can bring tears to the human eye.  If I am this conductor, my clients’ experiences are those instruments, and the harmonious, awe-inspiring product is the conclusion that each of their cathartic experiences shares a common bond – ALTRUISM. Continue reading

Altruism: The Helper’s High

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*Welcome to Part II of The Science Behind Altruism, our series of posts exploring the new scientific discoveries surrounding altruism.

“When I do good, I feel good.” – Abraham Lincoln

Leave it to Honest Abe, who provided America such oratorical masterpieces as the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural, to sum up altruism in seven simple words.  Plain yet spot-on, what Lincoln described is the core experience of being altruistic: that doing good for others really provides us an unmatched feeling of well-being, simply from knowing we helped another person.

Psychologists call it the “Helper’s High.”  But here at AltruHelp we know it’s more than that.  Why?  Because of the flurry of cutting edge research that is bringing new understanding to how and why this sensation of “feeling good” happens, and the possibilities ahead for recognizing the contributions of altruism to our health and happiness.

Thanks to advances in brain-imaging technology and the advent of neuroeconomics, a new field that applies neuroscience to study economic behavior, scientists have designed several experiments that actually trace altruism—and the pleasure we gain from it—to specific regions and systems in the brain.  In fact, two studies offer striking evidence that our brains are naturally wired to help us be altruistic.  Read More

Tap Your Inner Child: The Science Behind Altruism

Do humans have an innate desire to help others without expecting anything in return? It’s a simple question that has tested the wits of scientists and philosophers across millennia, including the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Hobbes and Darwin. Now it’s AltruHelp’s turn to weigh in on this perennial question.

Today’s post marks the start of a three-part series examining the emerging research on how humans are naturally altruistic—i.e. how we are innately composed via our brains, genes and neurons to help others selflessly. By looking at recent experiments conducted at leading institutions such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the German-based Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, as well as articles from prominent science and psychology journals, our goal is to shed light on the cognitive, genetic and neurochemical processes that likely combine to make altruism an innate human behavior.

One of the most fascinating areas of research focuses on whether young children have a natural (versus a learned or socialized) willingness to be altruistic. Read More

How Altruistic Are YOU?

AltruHelp
Have you ever wondered why helping someone feels good?  Or why you feel that psychological urge to help somebody even when you aren’t expected to?

Take a moment and think back to an instance when you helped someone and expected nothing in return.  Maybe it was giving directions and information to someone who was lost, or giving up your seat on a bus or train, or lending a hand to someone who was clearly in need.  Remember that brief positive energy you felt after?

What explains this impulse to behave altruistically, and the positive sensation we feel afterward?  Is altruism hard-wired into our brains, a function of morality, or just a way to satisfy our egos by validating that we’re a “good” person?  Is it a learned behavior driven by social mores, karma, or a reflexive process linked to genetics and evolution?

Here at AltrUHelp, we want to explore and inspire altruism – both inside the human mind and in our everyday lives. Read More