It's not just nice: Here are 11 research-backed reasons to volunteer your time.
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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.

Terence Power / TikTok

A video of a busker in Dublin, Ireland singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" to a young boy with autism is going viral because it's just so darn adorable. The video was filmed over a year ago by Terence Power, the co-host of the popular "Talking Bollox Podcast."

It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

"But I recently made TikTok and said I'd share it on that and I'm so glad I did now!" he continued.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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A teacher's message has gone viral after he let his student sleep in class — for the kindest reason.

Teachers spend time preparing lesson plans and trying to engage students in learning. The least a kid can do is stay awake in class, right?

But high school English teacher Monte Syrie sees things differently. In a Twitter thread, he explained why he didn't take it personally when his student Meg fell asleep — and why he didn't wake her up.

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via Ken Lund / Flickr

The dark mountains that overlook Provo, Utah were illuminated by a beautiful rainbow-colored "Y" on Thursday night just before 8 pm. The 380-foot-tall "Y" overlooks the campus of Brigham Young University, a private college owned by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), commonly known as Mormons.

The display was planned by a group of around 40 LGBT students to mark the one-year anniversary of the university sending out a letter clarifying its stance on homosexual behavior.

"One change to the Honor Code language that has raised questions was the removal of a section on 'Homosexual Behavior.' The moral standards of the Church did not change with the recent release of the General Handbook or the updated Honor Code, " the school's statement read.

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