The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times
February 2011, Jossey-Bass
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The Hidden Gifts of Helping
The Hidden Gifts of Helping
Want to Live Longer, Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease, and Relieve Stress? Help Others and Reap the Amazing Effects of “the Giver’s Glow"
Research shows that generous people who frequently give of themselves to others live healthier, happier, longer lives than people who don’t. In his new book, The Hidden Gifts of Helping: How the Power of Giving, Compassion, and Hope Can Get Us Through Hard Times (Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Imprint, March 2011), Stephen G. Post, a leader in the study of altruism, compassion, and unconditional love, shows that helping others is one of the best ways to navigate through life. Most importantly, he shows, it can get us through the inevitable tough times that come everyone’s way—a hopeful message today, when many people are losing their jobs and homes.
The outpouring of help in response to the earthquake in Haiti is one recent example of this phenomenon, but what if we make helping others a way of life? Using insights and research from evolutionary psychology, altruism, and psychiatry, and findings from a national survey conducted by the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, where he serves as president, Dr. Post proves the amazing benefits of helping others. These include:
•lower rates of heart disease;
•improved mental and emotional health;
•relief of stress and negative emotions.
This “kindness kickback” occurs partly because focusing on others causes a shift from our preoccupation with ourselves and our problems, a very healthy thing that reduces stress-related wear and tear on body and soul.
Dr. Post recounts how he and his family bounced back when he lost his job of twenty years and the family was forced to leave their beloved home in Cleveland. Beset by new financial anxieties, the loss of community and connectedness, and facing the challenges of starting over in a new place, the Posts found that the key to dealing with this upheaval was something they knew quite well, since Dr. Post has lead the scientific study of it: the healing power of helping others. Intentionally helping others as a daily way of life got them through several rough months. “The experience taught me that bonds of affection, good neighbors, and ultimately, love itself are the most essential things in a happy life,” says Dr. Post.
“‘Do unto others’ is the greatest self-help message ever devised,” Dr. Post says. He calls the side effect of helping others the “giver’s glow” and he has learned to never underestimate its power. “Something about moving beyond self and looking toward others brings happiness. When we stop expecting others to do things for us, and stumble on the happiness of doing things for other people, we can’t help but realize that whatever happens, we can handle it,” he says.
“We eat because it keeps us alive, and we help others because it keeps us human,” says Dr. Post.
This wise and practical little book includes ideas on how each of us can find our own “hidden gifts” to share with others, helping them and reaping important physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits for ourselves.