It’s no secret that we live in a society that encourages us to be self-focused. Every time we turn on our televisions, listen to the radio, or drive by a billboard, we see messages advertising the latest beauty product, skincare regime, or clothing fad. If we let them, these announcements of how to be, how to look and how to dress can consume us. Yet, there’s also a beauty, and deep reward, in turning away from ourselves and looking at the needs of others. When we seek to help someone and discern their areas of pain or shortcoming, we’re better able to fill those gaps and bring them up in the process.

While we know that good, selfless deeds simply make us feel happy and encourage us to keep at it, there are other benefits that practicing altruism, or true concern for others, can provide. Here are five examples, and reasons why this perspective shift is one of the healthiest we can adopt.

1. It can relieve stress. It’s easy to become wrapped up in our own worries, anxieties and stresses. Yet, researchers reveal that helping others can take our minds off of our current struggles and free us from those strongholds, even if only momentarily. The reason? Altruistic acts release endorphins in our bodies that affect them similar to the way exercise does. That’s one of the reasons we walk away from such experiences with a huge smile on our face. These natural, feel-good hormones are attributed to what some call the “helper’s high.”

2. It can boost our sense of satisfaction. Everyone wants to perform acts that improve their overall wellness and sense of self. Though altruistic acts are those done for others, it’s natural that after helping someone, we up our own sense of satisfaction and happiness. This is one of the perks of performing these types of good deeds and you shouldn’t feel guilty about experiencing it. When you improve the quality of life for someone else, you are indeed making a positive and beneficial difference and that’s definitely something to feel great about, and proud of.

3. It shifts our perspective toward gratefulness. We spend so much time around our possessions, we can quickly take them for granted. Yet, it only takes spending a little bit of time with someone less fortunate than ourselves to realize all that we truly have. Doing so gives us a newfound perspective of gratitude and helps us appreciate the things, and the people, surrounding us. This is especially helpful because we live in a society where it often seems that other people have it better than we do, or that the grass is greener on the other side. When you help someone going through a hard time, you’re able to more clearly realize and recognize the gifts and advantages in your own.

4. It takes our minds off our own difficulties. Recent research reveals that when cancer patients take the time to counsel others going through the same journey, their depression, mood swings, and other stressors are often lifted. The underlying reason? Helping someone else can be a beneficial and welcome distraction away from our own problems and can often help to mentally minimize them. This pulls us away from our preoccupation with ourselves and allows for a healthy mental shift.

5. It boosts our physical health. Yes, the benefits of altruism are mental, but they can also be physical as well. Scientists show that people who volunteer in both domestic and overseas environments and routinely help others are less likely to carry excess stress and thus live longer than those who do not.

Risks of Altruism

While there can be many benefits to helping others, there are some inherent risks involved, especially for those who already have too much on their plate or feel an excessive need to over-give. Altruism is at its most beneficial when the giver has the time and resources required to devote fully to the act. Otherwise, we can find ourselves in a self-deprecating cycle of selflessness that can be detrimental if left to go on for too long. Some people are even susceptible to bouts of depression after spending a lot of time with someone in an unfortunate circumstance. Even if you approach the circumstances with the best of intentions, if you’re not mentally or physically able to fully give, you could find yourself burnt out and discouraged by the experience.

Make sure you have the time management skills required before you take on a routine giving schedule, like a volunteer commitment. The overall goal is to help others as much as possible and avoid burnout and compassion fatigue that can often lead to you becoming the one who needs help yourself. In moderation, altruism can change the world, starting with you.

Author's Bio: 

Courtney Myers is a work-from-home mother of two interested in helping others reach their full capacity to love themselves, love others, and love the environment.