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Why do I feel good when I do good?

“Scent lingers on the hands of those who deliver flowers.”
Ancient China

“Give and Glow.”

“When I do good I feel good. When I do bad I feel bad.”
Abraham Lincoln

Why is it that when we contribute to the lives of others by kindness and helping, we discover happiness and resilience? Of course we have to look after ourselves and not neglect our own needs, but when we move past selfishness to serve others we find life more meaningful and interesting. We don’t have to depend on others returning the favor because in the very process of giving we are liberated from the boring focus on the self and its problems, and from destructive emotions like bitterness, hate, and despair. In fact, we can never be lonely when we are busy being kind and helpful. Remember that old Ebenezer Scrooge was miserable in his selfishness, but as he discovered how to help others and be kind he also became so very joyful. Indeed, by the end of the story he has what we call “the giver’s glow” and is among the merriest of people.

Fact:  In one national survey of 5000 adults, 41% had volunteered in 2009 about 100 hours a year, or a couple of hours per week. How did they feel?

  • 89% agreed that “volunteering improved my sense of well-being
  • 73% “lowered my stress levels” (serenity)
  • 92% “enriched sense of purpose in life”
  • 68% “made me feel physically healthier
  • 77% “improves emotional health
  • 78% “helps recovery from loss and disappointment
  • Improved sleeping, friendships; reduced anxiety and helplessness
  • 25% volunteer through their workplace, and 76% of them feel better about employer as a result

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This is a project of The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love.