Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Altruism Is Good For YOU

Gordon Gecko may have said "greed is good," but from a physiological and well-being perspective, altruism is better. The Institute of HeartMath reports that "when we act in other people's behalf, we feel better, more secure and experience less stress."

When we are helping others from a place of care, compassion and pure intent, both our brain and heart produce oxytocin, the love or bonding hormone. Heart cells as well as brain cells produce "feel good chemicals"including dopamine and endorphins. Only genuine intent creates this hormonal benefit.

An article on altruism prepared by the Institute of HeartMath cites research that shows:

* altruistic people are healthier and live longer
* older people who are helpful to others reduce their risk of dying by nearly 60% compared to peers who provide neither practical help nor emotional support to relatives, neighbors or friends
* altruism promotes enhanced meaning and purpose, and the presence of positive emotions such as kindness that displaces harmful negative emotional states

When we can shift our focus to what we have to give, instead of what we have to get or take, what follows actually helps US. Is it paradoxical that in giving, we receive more than if we had only focused on our selfish self-interest? Perhaps this shows the difference in scope between the ego and the heart. Because the heart operates from a place of connection and interconnectedness, it understands the flow of life. When we operate from ego, fear or scarcity, we can disconnect from this very flow.

Hearts know how to balance self-care and care for others. When we use our intellects with the balancing perspective of the heart, we can operate from a sense of duty or obligation, when can lack pure heartfelt intent. Using our heart's wisdom and guidance is key to keep ourselves in the circulating flow of giving and receiving, rather than burning out from giving in a disconnected state.

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