Help Others to Help Yourself

I just read this very interesting article on MSN Health & Fitness and by the looks at it, I think I’m on the right track. Are you?

Giving for Your Own Good

This may come as a surprise to the “Me Generation,” but happiness doesn’t come from living in a big house, buying the latest techno-gadget, and getting stamps from exotic locales in your passport.

In fact, a 2005 poll by Time Magazine found that helping others was a major source of happiness for 75 percent of Americans.

“Volunteering is an opportunity to be socially engaged and contribute to the lives of others,” says Stephen Post, a professor at Case Western Reserve University who co-authored the book Why Good Things Happen to Good Peoplewith Jill Neimark. “It’s not material goods that make us happy—it’s having purpose and meaning in our lives.”

In fact, some recent research suggests that we’re actually hard-wired for helping. Even thinking about helping others is enough to stimulate the part of our brain associated with feel-good chemicals like oxytocin.

Helping others doesn’t just make us happier, there’s also evidence it makes us healthier too. “Recent research out of England shows that cities with higher rates of volunteerism had the lower rates of depression and heart disease,” says Post.

Don’t have a lot of free time? No worries. People who volunteer just two hours per week (100 hours per year) enjoy lower rates of depression and better physical health.

How does your city compare?

The Corporation for National and Community Service ranked 50 large metropolitan areas by the percentage of the population that volunteers.

Most Volunteers: Minneapolis/St. Paul (40.5 percent), Salt Lake City (38.4 percent), Austin, Texas (38.1 percent), Omaha, Neb. (37.8 percent), Seattle (36.3 percent)

Fewest Volunteers: Las Vegas (14.4 percent), Miami (16.1 percent), New York City (18.7 percent), Virginia Beach, Va. (19.3 percent), Riverside, Calif. (20.6 percent)

See the complete list of 50 metropolitan areas.

Director, Hands On Central Texas

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