January 19, 2016

When You Feel Like Giving Up, Try This Instead.

sharing, share, create, assist, help, love, joy

“Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.” ~ J.M. Barrie

It’s January again, the month of moderation, restraint and abstinence. While the majority is focusing on giving something up, I am thinking, why not give something instead?

I have spent a lot of time over the years researching and understanding the science behind why there is a direct road to personal happiness in helping others. I have personally enjoyed this happiness when I have put myself out for another and also noted how slowly and subtly it can slip away as I become more introverted and selfish in my thinking and doing.

As a practicing Nichiren Buddhist, it is my responsibility to approach life with an outward looking view. I decide to take action and despite how I actually feel, usually if I “fake it until I make it,”, connect with and support others, that dark mood will lift.

This approach to life has led me to a career which I love. Every day I help young people grow and prepare to launch their promising careers. I always encourage them to take an altruistic approach to business and life, telling them with conviction that they will reap the rewards.

Altruistic actions create a feel-good chain reaction. Taking time out to give something and help others will have more benefits than you can imagine.

However, the reasons for taking time out for strangers might not be obvious to everyone. For anyone who is undecided about the benefits of giving, I wanted to share some thoughts on why doing the right thing is also doing the best thing for everyone.

1. “Helpers High.”

This is a term used to describe the after-effects that come from helping someone. Psychologists first discovered it in 1979 when a survey showed care givers were happier! Hurray! (1)

2. Helping others who need it can make you realize how fortunate you are.

Gratitude is the attitude for a happy life!

3. When we do good, our brains produce the chemical dopamine.

This makes us feel good and want to do more good–win, win! (2)

4. It has far-reaching positive value.

When you do something for another person it can activate the same tendency in others to do the same—creating a chain reaction of kindness.

5. Love is the drug!

We feel good on a chemical level when we perform an act of kindness thanks to the production of endogenous opioids—our body’s natural versions of morphine and heroine! (3)

6. It’s in our best interests that everyone does well.

As more people connect positively, our communities as a whole become happier and better places to live.

7. Let’s get physical!

When you have a face-to-face encounter the body produces Oxytocin, the bonding hormone, and the side effects of this is reduced blood pressure and feeling more relaxed. (4)

8. By teaching young people by example, we get a more vibrant economy.  

We are contributing to the future and will reap the rewards.

9. It gets on your nerves—in a good way.

The vagus nerve transfers a variety of signals throughout the body including controlling inflammation and keeping your cardiovascular system healthy. Studies show that people who practice compassion often have a more active vagus nerve. That can only be a good thing right? (5)

10. You can tell all your friends—they might buy you a drink for being a good egg!


References and further reading:

(1) Sociological Quarterly

(2) Nature.com

(3) Altruism and Aggression: Social and Biological Origins by Carolyn Zahn-Waxler (Editor), E. Mark Cummings (Editor), Ronald J. Iannotti (Editor)

(4) Journal of Neuroscience

(5) Trends in Cognitive Science




When it Comes to Giving & Receiving, There’s No Faking it.



Author: Zoe Wallace

Apprentice Editor: Tammy Novak  / Editor: Renée Picard

Image Credit: Denise Carbonell at Flickr



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