We’ve long been taught that helping others helps ourselves. As Charles Dickens wrote, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
And science has shown that altruistic behaviors — defined as putting the well-being of others before our own without expecting anything in return — actually do improve our health.
Volunteering, for example, has been shown to minimize stress and improve depression. It can reduce the risk for cognitive impairment. It can even help us live longer.
It also appears that giving can help us cope with pain. A 2017 study found chronic pain sufferers who volunteered reported decreased pain along with an improved sense of purpose.
A new series of studies may have found one reason why: regions of the brain that react to painful stimulation appear to be instantly deactivated by the experience of giving.
“Whereas most of the previous theories and research have emphasized the long-term and indirect benefits for altruistic individuals, the present research demonstrated that participants under conditions of pain benefited from altruistic acts instantly,” the study authors wrote.
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SOURCE: CNN, Sandee LaMotte