Altruism – Why it’s so good to do good

“Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr
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It’s true that we are hard-wired toward negativity, that we have a ‘built-in negativity bias.’ Rick Hanson explains that as we evolved over millions of years, dodging sticks and chasing carrots, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember sticks than it was for carrots. That’s because — in the tough environments in which our ancestors lived — if they missed out on a carrot, they usually had a shot at another one later on. But if they failed to avoid a stick — a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species — then there may be no more chances to pass on their genes.

However, studies have also shown that we are hard-wired for empathy and altruism as well. This is because cooperative behaviour worked on our behalf and helped our ancestors to survive under harsh conditions. So we reap psychological and physiological benefits when we practice altruism, when we do good things for others. In other words, doing good is good for you.

First of all, what exactly is altruism? It is defined as:

A voluntary, sometimes costly behaviour motivated by the desire to help another individual; a selfless act intended to benefit only the other.

So why would we do something that is of no benefit to ourselves?

Karen Salmansohn explains it like this:

Altruism raises your mood because it raises your self-esteem, which increases happiness. Plus, giving to others gets you outside of yourself and distracts you from your problems.

Here are a few good reasons to practice altruism:

It promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness

Giving to and helping other people releases endorphins, which then activate parts of our brain that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. This chemical reaction in the brain increases the chance that we will be altruistic and do good deeds in the future, thus creating a positive feedback loop of generosity and happiness.

It brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation

Being a part of a positive charitable social network leads to feelings of belonging and lessens isolation.

It helps to keep things in perspective

Helping others, especially those who are less fortunate, can provide a sense of perspective, enabling us to stop focusing on what we may feel is missing in our own life.

It reduces stress and improves our health

Evidence suggests that helping others can boost our health. Compassion has been shown to help stabilise the immune system against immunosuppressing effects of stress. Altruistic acts may also stimulate the brain to release endorphins, which are powerful natural painkillers. One study found that participating in charitable activities can be better for our health than lowering cholesterol or stopping smoking

It helps reduce negative feelings

People who are altruistic tend to see life as more meaningful. Altruism is associated with better marital relationships, increased physical health, and enhanced self-esteem. Acts of altruism decrease feelings of hopelessness and decrease depression. It may also neutralise negative emotions that affect immune, endocrine and cardiovascular function.

It may actually help us live longer

Helping others has actually been shown to increase our life span. Studies on older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t.

Quite simply, altruism feels good and is good for you. When you help others, it promotes positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. So although it is true that we are hard-wired to notice the negative, we are also hard-wired toward compassion and altruism. So the next time you have a choice between acting from fear or acting from caring and compassion, choose the latter, it’s better for you in every way.

I’ll close with a wonderful TED Talk by Abigail Marsh entitled: Why Some People Are More Altruistic Than Others.

I’d love to hear about how you practice Altruism.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.

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Visualization on Love and Compassion

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the lack of love and charity, the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor.”

– Mother Teresa


Do you consider yourself a loving and compassionate person?  Are you able to show love and charity and compassion towards your neighbors? And if so, are you practicing this same love and compassion on yourself. Most of us, especially the women among us, find it difficult to be very loving toward ourselves.

Lucille Ball famously said – Love yourself first and everything else falls into line.

I believe we do have to love ourselves first, be filled up with love, in order to let love flow. And when we are filled up, then let it flow; flow freely and copiously, because love and compassion are not luxuries, but necessities:

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries, without them humanity cannot survive

-Dalai Lama

I’d like to share one of my favorite visualizations with you today.

 

Do it today, do it everyday . . . Love the Earth, Love Your Neighbors, Love Yourself . . .

 

 

I would love to hear any feedback about how this visualization was for you;  I always love hearing about people’s experience with creative visualization.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Science of a Meaningful Life

“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

– Jon Kabat-Zinn


My friend Jayne sent me a wonderful link the other day.  It is so full of wonderful info that it kept me busy reading and listening for days! Thank you Jayne!  It’s from one of my very favorite sites that I have talked about before, Greater Good out of Berkeley.

I often talk about happiness in my blog, as a matter of fact, it is one of my favorite subjects.  But it’s not as simple as saying “Be Happy and your life will be grand.”

Happiness is good for you, but not all the time; empathy ties us together, and can overwhelm you; humans are born with an innate sense of fairness and morality, that changes in response to context. This has been especially true of the study of mindfulness and attention, which is producing more and more potentially life-changing discoveries.

One of the key points in the article is that:

A meaningful life is different—and healthier—than a happy one.

So what’s the difference between a happy life and a meaningful life? A recent study in the Journal of Positive Psychology explains a few of the differences:

Feeling good and having one’s needs met seem integral to happiness but unrelated to meaning. Happy people seem to dwell in the present moment, not the past or future, whereas meaning seems to involve linking past, present, and future. People derive meaningfulness (but not necessarily happiness) from helping others—being a “giver”—whereas people derive happiness (but not necessarily meaningfulness) from being a “taker.” And while social connections are important to meaning and happiness, the type of connection matters: Spending time with friends is important to happiness but not meaning, whereas the opposite is true for spending time with loved ones.

One of the most significant findings to have emerged from the sciences of happiness and altruism is that altruism boosts happiness.  Spending on others makes us happier than spending on ourselves.  The emotional benefits of altruism suggest that it is a product of evolution, perpetuating behavior that “may have carried short-term costs but long-term benefits for survival over human evolutionary history.” And mindfulness meditation makes people more altruistic.  Greater Good hosted a conference called “Practicing Mindfulness & Compassion,” where speakers made the case that the practice of mindfulness—the moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surrounding—doesn’t just improve our individual health but also makes us more compassionate toward others.

The article is full of wonderful information.  In my opinion it is well worth the read.

Embedded within the article are several videos from the conference. I will include one here called Mindfulness and Self-Compassion by Kristin Neff.  I hope if you have the time and the inclination that you will watch all of the videos.  They are uplifting and inspirational.

 

 

Please let me know what you thought of the article and the videos, I’d love to hear from you.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Compassion, Connection and Unity

“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis…it is the lack of love and charity; the terrible indifference towards one’s neighbor.”

– Mother Teresa


Bishop Desmond Tutu once said,  “The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”  We have to start somewhere to start healing our world. In I AM the Documentary, Tom Shadyac asks the important questions:  What’s wrong with our world? And what can we do about it?

Through wonderful, insightful interviews with Bishop Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Lynne McTaggart, Thom Hartmann, Howard Zinn and David Suzuki to name just a few, Shadyac explores what we can do to heal our world. Everyone interviewed agrees:

“This is the most profound discovery in all of physics.”

“The science shows us that we are all connected.”

“What we do at the individual level, really does affect the global environment.”

We really are deeply connected, and with compassion, we will experience unity.  And when we experience that deep sense of unity, I believe we wil begin to heal our world.

Bishop Desmond Tutu asks us to “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  We can all start today.

The Shift is About to Hit the Fan!  All Aboard!

Have you seen I AM the documentary – if so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it.  And as always, thank you for stopping by.  I appreciate it.

Be Kind Now!

”Our lives are not our own.  We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.”

– David Mitchell (Cloud Atas)


I watched an amazing movie last night with my sons, Lukas and Devin.  The movie is called Cloud Atlas – if you get a chance, it is well worth watching.  It’s a long, ambitious film – it has to be – since it’s based on the tome by David Mitchell.  Check out the trailer, even that is pretty epic!  At times it is confusing, but the main point comes through loud and clear – as our lives intersect, karma prevails, and one way or another our kindnesses or our cruelty come back to us. It is a bold and creative book/movie about karma, unity and connection.

I love the concept to Pay it Forward (another wonderful movie if you haven’t already seen it.) Practicing random acts of kindness makes such perfect sense to me. And even if we really don’t reincarnate, and even if karma does not prevail, paying it forward and being kind just feels good.  So how about we all just Be Kind Now! And with that in mind, I want to close with a wonderful video clip about paying it forward.  Enjoy!

I’d love to hear any stories of how you’ve experienced kindness being paid forward.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

If you cannot see anything beautiful about yourself – get a better mirror . . .

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

– Dalai Lama


I still have tears in my eyes as I write this – having just read an article about another teen in NZ who committed suicide due to bullying.  The suicide rate among young males in New Zealand is the highest in the OECD.  It’s appalling! Where is the compassion? Is compassion among young people diminishing?  Can it be brought back?  Can it be taught? Some say that compassion cannot be taught, but I believe it can.  Recent studies seem to suggest that it can.

At the University of Virginia, Compassionate Care and Empathic Leadership Initiative — a lengthy, fancy name for a simple, purposeful way to teach kindness, usher resilience and nurture compassion — is seeding change in fertile ground.

It appears that compassion can be taught, according to an article in Huffington Post.

Voluteerism can lead to compassion, and educational institutions are a central pillar in fostering volunteerism among youth. Indeed, it appears that compassion can be taught, which means that today’s educational institutions carry greater social responsibility than ever.

Please take the time to watch this amazing video by a young man who was bullied.  Shane Koyczan took his pain and created something mesmerizing.

To This Day,” is his spoken-word poem about bullying.

 

 

I’d love to hear what you thought about this YouTube video.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.