Whenever we perform an act of kindness, we feel good about ourselves, and feeling good about ourselves is healthy—emotionally and physiologically. Good deeds increase our sense of connection with others—a variable that has consistently been associated with health. This could help explain why it is that in numerous studies, altruism has been strongly associated with superior health. It has also been shown that the healthiest and happiest people are commonly the first people to offer helping hands to coworkers as well as strangers. So it may be that many altruists are healthier than non-altruists even before they give generously of themselves to others. Helping others also increases our sense of meaning and purpose.
In her extensive research on happiness, research psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky found that there are many reasons why altruism is associated with health.
- • We feel better about ourselves when we help others, and the resulting increased self-esteem creates healthy physiological changes.
- • The sense of mastery it often provides has the same effect.
- • By focusing on others who seem to be worse off than the ones who are helping, the helpers’ views of themselves are that they are healthier than they previously thought.
- • When we are involved in helping others, we are less focused on our own problems.