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Helpfulness is supposed to be its own reward, which, while admirable, isn’t always a compelling case for incorporating it into your life.

Especially if you're busy balancing work, family, relationships, your own health, and all of the chaos that goes with those things, volunteering can fall into the category of things we should do but rarely find time for. That’s why it can be useful to look deeper into the other benefits of being helpful — because it turns out that doing for others actually does a lot for you, too.

Image via iStock.


Helpfulness doesn’t have to be an altruistic act.

It can also be a lifestyle change that affects your health, happiness, and overall quality of life in positive and surprising ways. And the benefits you get from helping out don't make it any less good for the world. Here are 11 surprising things about how helpfulness affects the helper.

1. Volunteering might help you live longer.

A 2013 review included a look at five studies that found that participants who volunteered compared with nonvolunteers were 22% more likely to have a lower risk of mortality.

2. People who give to others tend to be happier people.

Image via iStock.

According to "The Paradox of Generosity," Americans who describe themselves as "very happy" volunteer an average of 5.8 hours per month. Those who donate more than 10% of their incomes also exhibited lower depression rates than those who did not.

3. One reason to be helpful? Research shows that it could be in your nature.

Scientists have discovered that the hormones connected to feeling generous vary depending on your DNA.

4. Of course, if you’re born with unhelpful genes, that doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with them.

According to the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds, compassion can actually be taught through meditation and practice. "It's kind of like weight training," researcher Helen Weng told the University of Wisconsin–Madison. "We found that people can actually build up their compassion 'muscle' and respond to others' suffering with care and a desire to help."

5. The happiness we feel after helping is caused by oxytocin released in our bodies.

Image via iStock.

That oxytocin triggers the release of another chemical, called nitric oxide, which reduces blood pressure.

6. Helping others could help reduce chronic pain.

Studies have shown that people with chronic pain reported feeling less discomfort after helping others with the same ailment.

7. Oxytocin also reduces levels of free radicals in our bodies, which contribute to aging and sometimes cancer.

So, in a way, helpfulness can actually slow aging!

8. Giving triggers more giving.

The New England Journal of Medicine documented a phenomenon that occurred when an anonymous donor gave a kidney. That single act triggered a chain of 10 kidney donations and transplants across five states from spouses and families of the kidney recipients.

Image via iStock.

9. Helpfulness increases productivity.

Adam Grant has become a leading researcher in organizational psychology based on his projects that show employees are exponentially more productive when they have direct interactions with the people who benefit from their work.

10. In teens and children, helpfulness can help develop more positive attitudes and behaviors.

Adolescents who volunteer tend to have improved grades and better self-image. So all of those school-mandated volunteer hours are definitely a good thing!

11. The benefits of helping others grow as you age.

Studies of older adults have found that retirees experience even greater benefits from their own volunteering than people who are employed.

There's no shame in incorporating helping into your life because it's healthy for you.

Volunteering, or simply being mindful about helping wherever you encounter a need, can be an important part of your own self-care routine that doesn't detract from all the good you're doing for the community. When people find ways to be helpers, everyone benefits.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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