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Unlocking Your Own Happiness Through Empathy and Support

by Heather Martin, VPG Contributor


“Doing good is its own reward” is a saying I’ve heard my entire life, preached to me as a child by my mother, grandmother, and countless other adults. The adage is supposed to mean that a good deed does not require a prize or even recognition. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered a different meaning for that phrase. Recent studies have shown there are actual mental and physical rewards for showing kindness and support to others.


Girl giving the thumbs-up sign

Science has proven that “selfless acts of generosity activate the brain’s reward regions, making the warm glow of kindness a very real thing.” (Parnell) In a study done at the University of Sussex, scientists discovered that it doesn't matter if you actually get a reward or not. The same parts of the brain are stimulated by just the act of doing good, whether it’s altruistically or strategically. In fact, the University of Zurich found that doing good for another, their specific example was spending money on someone else, will make you happier than if you indulge yourself. (Berglund) But it’s not just psychological; studies have also shown that doing good can help you actually sleep better. When you can answer the statement "I feel good when I think of what I’ve done in the past and what I hope to do in the future,” in the positive, you are less prone to sleep disorders like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. (Selig)  I have discovered for myself that, as I strive to become a more positive person to other people, it is easier to be positive toward myself. As I cheer others' accomplishments, I feel more of a drive to succeed myself. Not to beat others, but because I have a more positive attitude about my own talents and abilities. It’s most likely the “warm glow of kindness,” I just feel happier so I have more motivation in general. I think the best part of all the studies is that it doesn’t have to be large to start. You don’t have to give until it hurts to feel good. Small acts of kindness done daily will bring about an actual change in your brain, giving you more joy and less stress. So go out and help someone, and yourself, today!


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