In numerous studies, researchers have determined that connecting with others in order to be of service to them is strongly associated with superior health. In this and future posts, I will share some of those studies with you, touch on a few related topics, describe some of the physiology at work, and offer suggestions for practice.
What I refer to as connection and service practice is often called altruism, and I use that term here as a kind of shorthand. I’m emphasizing the connection aspect, though, because this is what improves health; the nature of the altruistic act—whether preparing a meal for someone in need, running errands for someone with mobility challenges, or simply holding open a door—is far less important than the connection that takes place between you and the other person.
Especially in my work in biofeedback, I have found that contact itself has the effect of physiologically opening the heart, and this is where health benefits are to be found. And when you feel connected, you will probably be motivated to reach out and serve others whenever you see an opportunity, so this is a practice that builds upon itself.
One explanation for the health benefits associated with these behaviors is that they contribute to a sense of belonging, community, and participation in contributing to the greater good. And this creates a state that enhances well-being—psychologically, emotionally, and physiologically.