Allan Luks is the man who coined the term ‘helper’s high’ over twenty years ago. The good news is that there is a lot of research and many facts that back up this amazing truth. People actually feel happy when they help other people. It’s as simple as that.
The science of how this works has been explained, and people are starting to wake up to this simple truth that we are hardwired to love each other. So, how do we apply this in our busy lives?
How to feel happy right this second?
Let’s not overcomplicate this. Our day is full of opportunities to feel instantly happy by helping other people. We can make someone breakfast, bring someone coffee, offer them a ride to work, buy someone lunch or be there to lend an ear for support.
We can even send our love to someone from a distance by telling them how much we appreciate them, or surprise them by sending them a card.
If we want to go a little deeper with this, we could find a way to help our communities, such as by volunteering at an animal shelter, adopting a rescue animal or donating to a good cause. In studying altruism, Luks found that people who are connected to a cause or purpose are much happier.
Are you happy that this isn’t rocket science? Perhaps, instead of medicating ourselves to cover up our feelings, we can just start looking for ways to brighten someone’s day.
We all know the ‘wino’ who is stressed out and has one too many glasses. It leaves her with a headache and a hole in her pocket, plus a few things she may have regretting saying or texting.
What if we started encouraging other women to give when they feel sad instead of heading to the local bar? This has a lot of potential to get us off drugs and really improve society. Instead of thinking about our problems, we can solve that uneasy feeling by focusing on others.
Using special imaging tools, scientists have found that when we give, the brain shows more activity in the same area that is stimulated when we see babies or have sex.
The truth is that we have evolved to be cooperative as a species. Our instincts are more than just to procreate; we are predisposed to love each other and teach that action that keeps us all peachy.
Giving = healing
To drive this point home, a Harvard study took this one step further. They studied people who were really depressed and turning to substances to deal with anxiety, but were wanting to change.
After a year, they found that the people who helped others had twice the success in their recovery. Helping others took their focus off themselves and moved it to others. This study proves that we can’t be happy if we are only thinking about ourselves, and helping others leads to euphoria.
Giving creates physical effects in the body
Luks released a study back in 1988 in which he had found that the 1,700 women he studied reported that they felt much happier when they participated in volunteer work. This was a serious study, and was published in the prestigious Psychology Today magazine.
Another smartypants, Herbert Benson, over at Harvard found that giving or helping others actually releases dopamine. Dopamine blocks the pain receptors in the body and reduces physical pain. Now that’s interesting!
Not only does helping people make you feel good emotionally, but it makes your physical body feel good. Researchers also found that it increases the healing process for wounds because these endorphins speed up the process.
Instant happiness doesn’t cost anything
Altruism is a drug for us, and it’s free. While helping others might have a monetary cost sometimes, such as buying a person food or a present, we can offer our time to help someone do their online tax filing, rake their yard, take out their trash, watch their kids or organize their closet.
There are so many ways to help other people, and when we make it a focus, we will start to see all those opportunities. Listen to people and notice how they are feeling, then think of ways you might be able to brighten their day. You will also feel better.
Nature is our best teacher
There’s no question that all around us are examples of how animals and nature take care of each other. When we see pictures of this in nature, we even feel better because it reminds us how to act in ways that make us feel that happy chemical. We are not living on an island isolated from each other although sometimes we feel like we are all alone.
So, try this: the next time you’re feeling down, do something kind for someone else. It can even be an animal. If you want to feel better, stop focusing on the things that you think are making you unhappy, and share a smile with someone else. This is how we can feel instantly happy all the time. The more you try this, the more it will become second nature.
Make it a habit to give in your daily routine. Who do you want to show your love to every day? What would make them happy? Remember, this is scientifically proven to work, so you don’t have to take my word for it.