The helper’s high

This is a quick read just to get us thinking about something really interesting and quite curious- why helping others not only makes them feel good, but makes us feel good too!

How acts of service can make everyone feel better

This is a challenging time for all of us, but for those who were sometimes felt anxious or stressed beforehand, coping with the uncertainty around us can be a steeper hill to climb. Or at least that is one way to look at it.  

As we look inward and think about our own levels of anxiety and stress, we naturally make less room for thinking of others. It’s not a conscious choice, or even a choice at all really, but it doesn’t have to be this way at all.  

It might seem like the last thing you want to do, but helping other people through acts of service, really does help to change things. Even just making time to build awareness of how others around you might be feeling can be a powerful tool to break the cycle of negativity. 

Turning your focus outward through certain actions and approaches can help others feel better, but they, in turn will also help you to feel that positive connection. Psychologists call this a “virtue cycle” but it’s really just as simple as saying “smile, and the world smiles with you”. What you put out there will come back to you in turn and everyone feels better.  

Ok! So what can I do?

 Here are three simple things you can do to change the story, and look up from those inward, negative and ultimately unhelpful thoughts. 

 

1. Avoid doing things that might make others in your house feel bad.  

You might for example, because you are focused inwardly, not realise that you are leaving things around the house for others to clean upThis might make others in your house feel bad, because they are trying hard to make the house feel like a nice place to be. Sometimes service to others is about not doing something, and this is a great place to start.  

2. Ask others how they are feeling 

 

This is powerful, because not only are you letting others know that you care about them, but it will also open the door to conversation about shared feelings.  Realizing that other people feel something similar, or even see things in a different light, is all key to getting things out in the open where they seem much easier to deal with. By supporting another person, you are definitely making things better for yourself as well. The best thing is, with technology, this is easy to do. Try to video call someone rather than just the voice, as this will help you both to feel more connected.  

  

 3.  Join a local community group 

 

It has been incredible to see how quickly people around us are self-organising to help others. This can be as simple as writing a note to an elderly neighbour with your phone number and posting it through their letterbox; just to tell them you are there if they need something. You might walk someone’s dog, or drop a loaf of bread at their door with a note. It all helps, and you will feel better through something scientists call “the helper’s high”. That means that when we help others, our brains release three chemicals which boost our mood and also reduce levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). Why not begin by making a list of people who might need help in your area, or ask others in your community groups on social media. If you need help finding these groups, or finding other ways to help, just let us know!

And finally

Does all of this mean that service is selfish? That we only help others to feel better ourselves? Well, we would love to hear your ideas on this, and we highly recommend checking out Jim Howe’s session on Lollipop Moments to see how small acts of service make a huge impact!

Mark Thomson

In challenging times, it can be difficult to think about others, when we are just trying to get by ourselves. 

This really is completely understandable because  we might think “I barely have enough energy for myself, so I can’t really help others right now”

The strange thing is, that helping other people actually gives you energy! It gives us such a boost, and we have more energy to look after ourselves, feel better, and even do more for others.

It does sound strange, but there is some science behind it. Have a read and see what you think. If you want to give it a go, there’s a link to Jim Howe’s “lollipop moments” session to help you take the next steps.

I hope you enjoy it!

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