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10 Ways Helping Others Will Improve Your Life

10 Ways Helping Others Will Improve Your Life

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill

It’s easy to focus all your time and energy on what you have and what you want. That self-focus can increase when you’re faced with personal or professional challenges. You put your head down, think about what needs to get done, and work harder or faster to get through a rough patch. You might cut yourself off from friends and the community, saying you’ll get back to them when things take a turn for the better.

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But what happens when you take the opposite approach? When you reach out to help others, even when you’re not sure precisely what you have to give? This can take the form of volunteering with a local charity or simply helping a colleague at work when you don’t need to.

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A growing deluge of research shows that helping and giving can make you feel connected, grow in new ways and even live longer. Here are 10 ways helping others can also help you.

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1. Helping makes you feel connected.

By engaging with other individuals and communities, you feel more connected to other people. Humans are social by nature–which means we need relationships for optimal psychological health. Connecting with others fulfills a need we all have but sometimes ignore. Beyond just the one-on-one connections, helping address a bigger issue or cause (like a charity that aims to reduce homelessness, or improve nutrition in low-income children, or provide greater access to education) can make you feel like a needed part of the world.

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2. Helping can build new skills.

Over time, helping others can help you build new skill sets — especially if your activities lie outside your wheelhouse. Say you’re a bank teller and you volunteer in a completely different area: on an event planning committee for a local charity. You might already be good at managing people, but by engaging in this work you’ll build new skills in juggling competing timelines, working with vendors, and marketing.

3. Helping makes you grateful.

Helping others facing their own challenges can put yours into perspective. This is particularly true if your ‘problems’ are small by comparison. It’s easy to take things like health, shelter or family for granted until you spend time with people living in profoundly difficult situations. Use these opportunities to cultivate gratitude and inspire you to make the most of what you have.

4. Helping creates new relationships — and improves the ones you have.

Helping in the community can get you out of your usual social circles and introduce you to new people. Many of these individuals may become friends, mentors or colleagues. Besides leading to new relationships, being generous can have spillover affects that benefit your current relationships. When your helping mindset results in better interactions with your significant other, family and co-workers, everyone benefits.

5. Helping makes you live longer.

This in itself should be a major motivator! Various studies have found that the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling we get by helping has real physiological effects — and they pay off in the long-term. In particular, those who ‘help’ consistently tend to live longer than those who don’t; and they report lower blood pressure, less depression, lower stress and greater happiness while doing it.

6. Helping can expand your identity.

Did anyone ever say ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? Psychology has shown that when you focus too myopically on one dream or goal or dimension of your life, setbacks in that area can be huge blows. Having a multi-faceted identity — for instance, as a manager, a parent, a community member, a volunteer — can enrich your sense of self and give you more areas of joy. And, when setbacks happen in one area, they’re not nearly as debilitating.

7. Helping builds your reputation as a giver.

When others start to see you as someone who’s generous and who makes a contribution beyond their immediate sphere, more people come to you with requests. This is really a good thing — as many requests are opportunities in disguise. Over time, being seen as a consistent ‘helper’ can open new personal and professional doors you never could have imagined.

8. Helping boosts your self-esteem.

And really, who can’t use an extra dose confidence in these unpredictable times? By truly helping — making others better off through our interventions — you can see yourself having impact (what researchers call ‘self-efficacy’). This means you’re more likely to have faith in your ability to succeed in other situations. (Maybe now you can run that half-marathon, or apply for that promotion!) Researchers have found that confidence in and of itself can be a big predictor of success. So little wins achieved through helping others can build on each other over time to produce bigger and better results in your life.

9. Not helping can stress you out.

Not helping when you know you should can actually lead to greater stress. Researchers have used experiments to determine that being stingy drives the release of cortisol, which is a physiological sign of stress. So on top of not getting the benefits of helping, by abstaining from helping you might even further taxing your system.

10. Helping builds your resume.

From a practical standpoint, helping activities usually generate experiences and skills to put on your resume. This can directly contribute to your efforts to land other volunteer or professional roles. It also shows you’re a caring, well-rounded person who can contribute in a variety of settings.
So if you’re still debating whether it’s worth taking some time out of your busy schedule to help others, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’! It’s ok to start small so you don’t feel over committed. You can easily grow your helping over time as your situation, capacity and abilities allow. But by starting today, you can get a jump start on feeling better, living longer, growing your skills and enriching your quality of life.

Featured photo credit: lmulej via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

1. Take the scenic route.

Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

2. Distract yourself.

No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

3. Listen to music or podcasts.

There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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4. Bring a friend.

Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

5. Accessorize.

There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

6. Compete.

A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

7. Relax.

The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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