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Survival Of The Kindest - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

With Valentine’s just around the corner, millions of Americans are planning a special treat for our sweetheart. But new research from the University of California at Berkeley suggests that giving to others throughout the year may actually be the secret of good health and can even extend your life.

So exactly how can giving to others actually be a benefit to ourselves?

Scientists have long thought that the survival of the fittest was the gold standard on longevity and on success—the “dog eat dog” mentality where the best competitors survive against all odds. But we are finding that human beings are actually hard wired for giving to others—what psychologists call selflessness. Now we know that caring for others is biologically based too. Sympathy, socializing in groups, caring for our offspring and elderly parents, helping someone across the street, and donating money to charities are all a part of our basic and better nature.

The best news is that you actually increase your own lifespan when you reach out to others consistently. In landmark research psychologists now report that people who serve others--whether it’s through building a house or caring for an elderly parent--will not only increase their happiness quotient but may live longer and better than others.

How does helping someone else improve your physical health?

In the Company of Others: We are built to move in communities and Mother Nature punishes those who do not reach out. Socializing actually increases your immunity and protects you from illness. Sadly, isolated people have double the mortality rates. Giving to others keeps you socializing and alive.

Helper’s High: Research reports that volunteerism produces a helper’s high, similar to a runner’s high. The best part is that volunteers then have a longer lasting sense of calm and heighted emotional well being. Your mood literally improves as you serve the interests of others. A study of almost 3000 men found that those who volunteered for community organizations were two and a half time less likely to die. Volunteering is literally a way to ward off old age.

Giving to Others Literally Counteracts Stress. Giving to others can actually combat the effects of stress by preventing the nervous system from being overwhelmed when adversity arises. When we earn the gratitude of others, our brains are flooded with endorphins, those neurological hormones that make us feel so much better.

Reach Out to Others: Interestingly, even giving to others when your life isn’t going well may be a secret to getting through hard times. In one study, a sociologist studied the data from over 100 disasters. People who reached out to others survived the longest, made the best recoveries and enjoyed the best health.

Continued Giving: People who continue to give over time earn the best dividends. You may literally age slower—your skin will stay moist, your muscles may be more toned, you won’t lose so much hair—because you are less stressed. The bottom line is that positive emotions like compassion and empathy are incredibly powerful feelings and your body and mind love them. Better yet, they will keep you alive longer.

Survival of the Kindest - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

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