Serving others not only helps others and makes the world better, it also makes us better. Research shows that serving or giving to others boosts the immune system, increases health, happiness, and sense of well-being. Stephen Post, professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University in New York and author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping, opines that a part of our brain lights up when we help others. That part of our brain then secretes dopamine, and serotonin which are described as the “Feel good hormones”. According to Post, “These chemicals help us feel joy and delight also known as the helper’s high.” 

Additionally, serving others increases our ability to manage stress, fight off disease, reduce chronic pain, blood pressure and depression. Some studies even indicate that it increases our lifespan. Serving others gives us a sense of purpose and satisfaction.  For adolescents, serving others promotes pro-social behaviors, increases self-esteem, reduces depression, and academic achievement. Serving others also is contagious. When one person does a good deed, it sets up a chain reaction of other good deeds. This can create a ripple effect throughout the community inspiring others to do the same and often pay it forward.  

If we are busy with a full-time job or raising a busy family, how do we find time to serve or volunteer?  We can barely manage all the tasks we have. We do not have to serve in a soup kitchen or food bank regularly to serve the world. There are small ways we can contribute to a healthier and better society that take no time at all. As an example, when in a restroom, always make sure that the little bits of paper are picked up off the floor making it more pleasant for the next user. One could also use a paper towel and wipe off the counter. Another easy way to serve is when we are shopping and trying on clothes in the dressing room, hang up the clothes properly on the hangers so the attendant does not have to clean up after you. Pay for the person’s (behind you in line) coffee or meal and watch as they are delighted and surprised. It will always lift your spirits. Picking up someone’s mail, watering their flowers, putting their trash cans from the curb to their garage door, asking if they need anything at the store as you leave to go grocery shopping, or putting the newspaper by their front door are little ways we can serve with a big impact. 

As I reflect when I am the happiest, it is when I am engaged in helping others. Leading with my heart in service gives me a skip in my step and makes me smile even when I am totally exhausted and fall asleep as my head hits the pillow.  Oh, did I mention, serving others increases one’s ability to rest well and sleep!