I’ve come to believe that the simple formula for happiness and success in life lies in caring about others, helping them in any way we can, and sharing what we have.
I learned this the hard way.
In the beginning, when I was striving for career success, better relationships, improved overall health, and mental well-being, I thought others had nothing to do with it—that it was a battle I had to win on my own.
With this mind-set, I made my life more complicated and didn’t improve personally, spiritually, or professionally.
Then, I decided to give another approach a try—to make others part of my journey every day, in small ways.
I began talking to strangers and people in my surroundings more, opening up, sharing my goals, giving them advice, or simply listening to their problems and showing compassion.
I stopped investing my time only in “me” activities and began doing “we” activities. That could be seeing someone in need and spending time with them, becoming more active in the local community, or volunteering.
All of that paid off tenfold, because I received so much in return that my career, happiness level, relationships, and peace of mind were all improving.
After experiencing the wonderful benefits of helping others, I did my research and found out that all of these positive effects were actually backed by science.
So, let me share how sharing and caring can improve our life—and maybe this can inspire us to start doing more for others:
1. It’s good for our health.
I’ll begin with the health benefits of caring about others.
Doing something altruistic leads to positive physiological changes, strengthens the immune system, and can even reduce pain, thanks to the release of endorphins in the brain.
I started volunteering many years ago and had the chance to experience those benefits firsthand. Turns out, volunteers often live longer and have better general health than those who never get involved in giving to others.
I believe it’s the little things that matter.
Nothing compares to seeing another human being open up and realizing that no one ever listened to that person—and that they might not even know what compassion looks like. When we give them compassion by simply keeping them company, we can see the transformation in their eyes. And it doesn’t only transform them—it changes us, too.
2. It helps us handle stress better.
We all have stressors in our lives, whether we admit it or not. But, little did I know that the solution to this is also hidden in volunteering.
Once I began doing more for others and focusing less on my desires and needs, my mental health improved. I found meaning, I felt good about myself, and signs of depression, stress, and anxiety started disappearing. Researchers have shown that volunteers do in fact experience improvements in these conditions and state that, because of this, volunteering can increase our lifespan.
3. It allows us to form a deeper connection with ourselves.
Giving is a way to connect with others, but it also helps us get to know ourselves better, forgive ourselves, and be more compassionate.
Ultimately, that leads to feeling good about ourselves and forming a deeper connection that helps us live a purpose-driven life and be more mindful.
We appreciate everything more when we volunteer. It changes our perspective. It’s proven to distract us from our own problems, and thus help us deal with the hardships in life.
I can’t count the many deep conversations I’ve had with people I wanted to help. These conversations meant more to them than any food they were given that same day. It’s because they forgot what real connection looks like, and, once they experienced it, their souls were reborn.
But there were also many examples from my volunteering experience where we just sat there with the person and connected on a deeper level, without saying a word.
Words aren’t always necessary—but good energy can’t go wrong. That person in front of me felt I was there to give without expecting anything in return, and simply accepted my good energy with gratitude.
4. It improves our social life.
Along with a better relationship with ourselves, we who volunteer also have a better social life.
It all begins by noticing a new form of social connection once we start helping those in need. This might lead to long-lasting friendships. But, even if it’s just for the sake of making somebody smile after serving them a meal at a shelter, it’s all for a good cause, and we socialize in the most genuine way possible.
As multiple studies have suggested, we are social beings, and the more interactions we have in life, the better the condition of our brain.
5. It increases our happiness levels.
Nothing has ever made me feel more thankful for what I already have than giving.
Helping others somehow opens our eyes to how little other people might have—and we suddenly feel like we live in abundance.
Then, we begin cherishing all the people in our life, our own body and mind, and each of our precious days on this planet. We use our time more effectively, do things we love, and socialize.
Every time we do a good deed for others, we get a feeling of euphoria (endorphins released in the brain)—and we feel great. Such a mental boost is addictive, and we seek more of the same feeling once we experience it.
People in need can’t fake it, and they also can’t hide their happiness. I saw this when I stayed with them longer than planned, and they knew I would rather be there with them than anywhere else.
Other times, I would bring them personalized gifts, such as a picture of a place at the other corner of the world so they could dream of being there, or a book we’d discussed if I saw they liked reading and losing themselves in stories.
6. It’s good for our relationships.
Last but not least, I noticed that giving is good for my relationships.
One reason for this is the spiritual growth we experience as a result of giving. We find meaning and fill the void inside, which makes us more complete and brave. This inevitably boosts self-esteem.
Another great benefit of helping others that affects our relationships in life is the gratitude we are filled with. This gratitude transforms into us caring about those around us more, appreciating their company, and making every minute with them count. My loved ones immediately noticed I treated them better, listened more, and complained less.
I hope these science-backed points can motivate us to find little ways to help others today—and every day.
Our mission in life is not always clear, but it is undoubtedly connected to going beyond ourselves. Doing so can be a turning point in life—it certainly was for me.