5 Reasons Why Making A Positive Difference In Others' Lives Will Improve Yours Too

No. 4 is the gift that keeps on giving.

No matter how happy you are on a given day, we all need help from time to time. Case in point: Kevin Finn, the main character of ABC's Kevin (Probably) Saves The WorldHe's a cluelessly self-serving person on a bit of a downward spiral until he has a life-changing encounter with Yvette, an unlikely celestial being who tasks him with a mission to save the world. Through trial and error, and with some laughs along the way, he learns how helping others can actually be the best way to help yourself. 

Now, you don't have to do anything quite so ambitious as that to experience firsthand all the positive benefits of helping others. That's right, studies have shown that doing good, like donating to a charity and volunteering your time, is good for you. 

Here are five reasons helping others is the best way to help yourself.

1. It's scientifically proven that doing good feels great.

Psychologists have coined the term "helper's high" to describe the feelings of reward that are triggered in the mesolimbic system of the brain when people donate to charity. A 2006 study found that when participants donated money to a "major societal cause" important to them, the mesolimbic system was engaged "in the same way as when monetary rewards are obtained." To further prove that doing good feels great, Arthur C. Brooks, then a professor at Syracuse University, performed an analysis showing that givers were 42 percent more likely than non-givers to say they were "very happy." 

2. Volunteering doesn't just have the potential to boost others' self-esteem, but yours, too.

When you volunteer — whether it's building a house or serving food to those in need — you make the reciepients of your kindness and genorosity feel better, but you can reap those benefits, too. People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness, according to Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota. Snyder also touts improved health and overall longevity as additional benefits of volunteering. 

3. Helping people you don't know helps you better connect to those you do.

It may come as no surprise that helping a friend can improve your relationship with them, but helping a total stranger can have a similar positive effect. A 2013 study by the National Institutes of Health found that when participants in a group helped each other, their positive emotions increased. Those positive emotions, in turn, increased positive social connections and physical health, each part influencing one another "in a self-sustaining upward-spiral dynamic." So the more a person helped others, the more positive they felt individually, and the more connected they felt in their relationships.

4. You can set off a chain reaction of kindness that will find its way back to you.

One of the benefits of volunteering, according to the Mental Health Foundation, is the opportunity to make friends and take part in social activities. This not only helps create a feeling of community among volunteers, but can set off a chain reaction — inspiring everyone they encounter. In a 2010 international study, researchers found that kindness truly is contagious. "When we see someone else help another person it gives us a good feeling," it was stated in the study. "Which, in turn, causes us to go out and do something altruistic ourselves." So the next time you need a helping hand, it'll be there for you — because you've lent yours in the past. 

5. Helping someone else can empower you to find a greater sense of purpose in your own life.

There are tons of small, everyday actions you can take to make yourself feel more empowered, from what you wear to how you carry yourself. But empowering others, whether it's through donating time or money, is another amazing way to empower yourself. In doing so, your body becomes receptive to the "activism cure," a term coined by researchers at the University of Texas, which explains how volunteering can help you get back to feeling not just like yourself — but your best self. 

In fact, those who participate in volunteer work feel more empowered than those who do not, according to an experimental study from 2008. Additionally, a survey by the United Health Group found that 96 percent of respondents who volunteered over the last 12 months stated that volunteering "enriches their sense of purpose in life." 

Kevin (Probably) Saves The World is a new ABC show about a down-on-his-luck man who begins to turn his life around by learning the importance of helping others. Tune in to the series premiere Tuesday at 10 pm EST. 

Cover image via Unsplash

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