Do you ever give of your talents for free?
Society is a better place if it cultivates a volunteering spirit or ethos. Volunteering should be encouraged within our homes, schools and communities. When we reach out to help others it helps us put our own challenges into better perspective. We do not have to travel far to find someone who is in the midst of crisis and upheaval. If we are currently experiencing sadness or brokenness we need to remember that other people are experiencing similar pain or even a deeper type. Life is a very imperfect journey. But when we help other people we not only experience a great sense of satisfaction but are rewarded in many ways, including within our own inner-biology.
A study by researchers at Brown University Medical School involving participants in the Alcoholics Anonymous programme examined the relationship between helping other alcoholics to recover and incidences of relapse in the year following treatment. The twelfth step of the programme facilitates the sober alcoholic remaining with the group to encourage and inspire others still suffering from their addiction. Not everyone completes this twelfth step. But those who do seem to experience better outcomes. The study found that recovering alcoholics who helped other alcoholics were significantly less likely to relapse in the year following treatment. Among those who helped other alcoholics (8 per cent of the study population), 40 per cent successfully avoided alcohol in the year following treatment, compared to 22 per cent of those unengaged in helping others to recover.
In a study by C.E. Schwartz, a group of people with multiple sclerosis volunteered to help fellow sufferers despite their own significant symptoms. Over two years, the volunteers showed pronounced improvement in self-confidence, self-esteem, depression and role functioning. They especially benefitted in terms of protection against depression and anxiety. Such acts elevate our levels of oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide, which dilates (expands) the blood vessels. The hormone is known as a ‘cardio-protective’ because it protects the heart by lowering blood pressure.
But it’s no good knowing this. We need to legislate in our busy lives to volunteer more. Do you give of your time or talents to help others?
(C) Shane Martin