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No, I’m not talking about that kind of high. I’m referring to the special feeling we get when we give to others. It could be from helping out a friend, smiling at a stranger, participating in meaningful volunteer work to aid those less fortunate, or sending a financial donation online.
When we make others happy, we experience an amazing biological phenomenon called a helper’s high. It is a distinct physical sensation associated with doing acts of kindness.
Why Does This Happen?
This helper’s high, scientists believe, is the result of our brain releasing chemicals called endorphins when we behave altruistically. We experience positive energy in our body that is similar to how we feel after we exercise. Endorphins make us feel good naturally; they give us a rush that makes us elated and excited. The experience is often described as euphoric.
According to Psychology Today, the helper’s high is a literal “high,” similar to a drug-induced high. Doing good deeds triggers the reward center in our brain that is responsible for releasing chemicals that are similar to dopamine.
What Science Tells Us
Several recent studies confirm the positive relationship between acts of kindness and experiencing a natural chemical high.
- In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health discovered that when people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.
- A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else increased participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves.
- Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, observed a helper’s high in study participants when she asked them to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.
- At Emory University a study revealed that helping others lit up the same part of the brain as receiving rewards or experiencing pleasure.
- Another study examined the relationships between volunteer work in the community and the following six aspects of personal well-being: happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression. Results show that volunteer work enhanced all six aspects of well-being.
The helper’s high is an extra benefit to showing kindness that you can share with your children everyday. Go ahead…enjoy getting high with your kids and making the world a brighter place.
We would love to hear your stories about the fantastic family volunteer opportunities you are doing.