The Happiness of Helping Others

Helping others is important in increasing happiness, because happiness and service go together. The more we give, the happier we feel, and there’s no better way to feel happy than to help someone else, especially someone in need. When you practice compassion for others, you’ll get practice treating others with kindness. And kindness, like happiness, is contagious. In Buddhism, Mudita means sympathetic joy, the ability to rejoice in the good fortune and happiness of others, and is considered a noble element of the heart.

Doing something like volunteering time is rewarding because you’re helping others, which helps us feel better about ourselves. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you have a positive view and inner well being. It has been proven that altruism can decrease stress and enhance mental health and happiness. 

Concepts of charity are found in almost all religions; service and the value of giving is deeply rooted in the texts, traditions and practices of many faiths. Christian tradition considers giving a key religious practice, and Judaism has an obligation to charitable works (tzedakah), as a commandment from G*d. In Islam,  the pillar of Zakat (“that which purifies”) is a form of alms-giving next after prayer in importance. Buddhism has a ubiquitous practice of Dana (generosity) as a universal virtue, demonstrated in the community by the monastic dependence on lay community, reciprocated by monks giving guidance and help.

In giving we receive, and in grasping we lose. An ancient Jewish phrase, “tikkun olam,” means to heal the world. It is not the amount of gift, but how one gives that establishes relationship between giver and recipient. Giving avoids humiliation, superiority or dependence of the recipient. By giving to another, we create connection and conversation, which promotes a greater sense of belonging. Maslow theory says a sense of belonging and acceptance among social groups is critical to human needs.

As we help others, there is an opportunity to reflect on our place in the world.As we do good for the community, we may understand that we have more in common with each other. It’s a humbling way to honor humanity and gain gratitude for our blessings. Empathy is a key character strength that can enhance life satisfaction, and with it, happiness.

Here is an Infographic on Volunteering and happiness