Healthy Altruism; Volunteers Found to Benefit Own Well-Being When They Help others.(LIFE - HEALTH)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 25, 2002 | Go to article overview

Healthy Altruism; Volunteers Found to Benefit Own Well-Being When They Help others.(LIFE - HEALTH)


Byline: Christian Toto, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Palisades resident Kimberly Chester and her 14-year-old dog, Zoe, are regulars at the Northwest Health Care Center on Wisconsin Avenue.

The duo cheer up the center's seniors each week, but Mrs. Chester also benefits from the visits. She says she gets as much as the people she helps, if not more.

"When you're there, there are no phones ringing that you have to answer," says Mrs. Chester, who has spent the past 18 years working with People Animals Love (PAL), a group that matches pets with the elderly, infirm and disadvantaged to brighten their spirits.

Mrs. Chester, 52, says she isn't alone in feeling that way. In fact, performing good deeds isn't simply an act of charity; some experts say it's a way to improve our health.

Dr. Larry Dossey, a physician and author who has studied altruism and health, called the sensation felt while doing charitable deeds the "helper's high" in his 1991 book "Meaning and Medicine."

The Santa Fe, N.M.-based doctor reports that the body releases opiates during altruistic acts, similar to what joggers refer to as the source of a "runner's high."

"These are more than just thoughts and feelings that stay in your head," Dr. Dossey says of acts of kindness. "They initiate a cascade of biochemical changes."

Endorphins, which help regulate pain, can be released during charitable acts to combat the release of hormones such as adrenaline released during stressful stretches.

Writing a check for a worthy nonprofit just won't cut it, though.

"You've got to get your hands dirty, like working in a soup kitchen," Dr. Dossey says. Human interaction is a key element in feeling the sensation. "It has to be up close with an intimate sense of involvement and commitment."

Not all doctors are convinced of altruism's health implications, Dr. Dossey says, and research on the topic is scarce.

He compares the connection to that between spirituality and medicine; studies have shown that those of strong faith live longer than nonbelievers.

"The emerging data shows spiritual practices really have tangible benefits for people's health," he says.

* * *

Dr. Herbert Benson, president of the Mind/Body Medical Institute in Boston and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, says high stress levels can lead to a variety of disorders.

Stress "evokes a fight-or-flight response," says Dr. Benson, making people more susceptible to such conditions as anxiety, mild and moderate depression, hypertension and cardiac irregularities.

Other consequences of stress include problematic sexual performance along with a decreased sperm count, plus an increase in "hot flashes" in menopausal women.

The body, however, has within it an opposition response to that instinct, which Dr. Benson calls the "relaxation response." His April 2003 book, "The Breakout Principle," will explore that subject.

The response requires several steps to elicit it, such as the repetition of a word or prayer, as in meditation, or a session of yoga class.

"People have been doing this for years, often through a prayer," he says.

"All of this helps explain why altruism can work," he continues. "The essence of the relaxation response is to break the train of everyday thought."

Whether it is painting a senior citizen's home or serving a nutritious meal to someone in need, "they all get you to forget your own worries. It allows the body to revert to its healing properties," Dr. Benson says.

To benefit from the relaxation response, he says, requires daily practice. He doesn't mean a trip to the local soup kitchen each morning, but a variety of stress-relieving endeavors that combine to make us healthier. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Healthy Altruism; Volunteers Found to Benefit Own Well-Being When They Help others.(LIFE - HEALTH)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.