Helping Others & Helping Yourself

We’ve all been taught since we were little to do nice things for others, like giving up our seat on the bus for an elderly person, or even holding the door open for those behind us. While we may have been annoyed at our mothers telling us to do these things, our moms were actually giving us a tool to become happier. Now it’s been scientifically proven that helping others does indeed make us happier. It increases our life satisfaction, gives us a sense of meaning, increasing our feelings of competence, improves our mood, and reduces our stress levels. Being kind and helping others helps connect us with other people and meets our need of relatedness.

Giving to others and helping others is a cycle. Happiness makes want to give more, and giving makes us happier, which leads to a greater desire to help. It all comes full circle. There’s just a feeling that you get when you’ve done something that’s made someone else smile. I know that I get such fulfillment and reward from helping others. I can’t help but smile as I get the response from them that I’ve just done something that has helped them in some way. Helping others makes me feel really grateful and lucky for what I do have. Expressing gratitued is a huge aspect of happiness, and you can even read my blog post all about it here: http://blog.undergradresearch.northwestern.edu/2015/02/09/power-of-gratitude/

I gave out a survey about happiness to 147 students at my school, Evanston Township High School. One of the questions I asked on the survey was “what do you do that makes you happy?” One of the top responses to this question was: making others happy. So some of the students at my school have this awareness that making others happy, makes them happy in return. It’s hard to describe, but you just feel good after helping others. Psychologists have even coined a term “helper’s high” which describes a euphoric feeling, followed by a longer period of calmness, experienced after performing a kind act. So this is real. It is a fact, we become happier by making others happier.

As a part of my Senior Studies experience, I’ve done around 100 hours of service. This started out as a requirement, but has since become something I both want to do, and look forward to doing to bring myself and others happiness. I’ve done service at Curt’s Cafe, a cafe that trains at risk youth, at Soup at Six, a soup kitchen, and Park School, a school for students with special needs. I’ve been doing service at all of these places since the beginning of the school year, and have found it to be an incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve gotten more connected with my community, helped others through the process, and have become happier myself. I’ve fallen in love with the students, staff, and institution of Park School. It doesn’t take much to make the students happy, and what I do there isn’t super hard work, but it helps the teachers. I make the teachers’ lives easier, I entertain the students, and I mostly serve as an extra pair of hands. Knowing that I am taking a little bit of the weight off of the teachers, and also get to see the students’ faces light up with laughter brings me such joy and fulfillment. I feel like I’m doing something right. I always feel so beyond grateful when I go to Park School because I often take for granted that I can walk down the stairs in the morning or go to the bathroom by myself. Doing service at Park School is always like a wake up call that I am incredibly lucky, and that with my luck, I can help those that aren’t as fortunate.

The huge service component of Senior Studies perfectly connects to my project in the sense that it is another thing to add to the list that people can do to become happier. I’ve been doing service consistently this entire school year and can confidently say, it does make me happy. Being the person to brighten someone else’s day and make something easier for them, in turn comes right back and brings the same happiness back to the giver.