Lend a hand? Happily.

I’ve volunteered as long as I have been old enough to do so.

It started with girl scouts in elementary school where we would do various projects such as volunteering at a homeless shelter. It continued with volunteering at a hospital starting the summer after my freshman year of high school, participating volunteer opportunities with the national honor society later in high school, and leading a band service sorority in college.

I’ve had friends ask me why I do it, saying that I don’t get anything in return. Even those in NHS with me would only do the minimum volunteer hour requirements while I always did more.

Well, I did get something from it. It just wasn’t necessarily tangible.

What I got was happiness.

Research has shown that those with a greater interest in helping others rate themselves as more happy. It is believed that such acts may foster a charitable perception of others and one’s community, an increased sense of cooperation and interdependence, and an awareness of one’s good fortune.

People who willingly help others tend to feel more altruistic, confident, efficacious, in control, and optimistic about their ability to help.

Generosity can also inspire greater liking by others, as well as appreciation, gratitude, and pro-social reciprocity. It may also satisfy a basic human need for relatedness, which contributes to happiness.

So next time you have the opportunity to help others, I hope you take it. It may help boost your happiness.

happy

The research is from: Lyubomirsky, S; Sheldon, K M; & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. UC Riverside: Retrieved from: http://escholarship.org/uc/item/4v03h9gv

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Hanna is a MD/PhD student at the University of Illinois and an aspiring physician scientist who aims to specialize in hepatobiliary cancers. She is also passionate about teaching, leadership, and advocacy. The energy she once used to pep up crowds as a college marching band member is now directed toward exciting and educating others about science and medicine, especially through her tweets at @MDPhDToBe and her blog at www.mdphdtobe.com.

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Posted in General Interest

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