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Helping Others – The Best Medicine

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As Stephen Post declares in his scientific report ‘It’s Good to Be Good’¹: “It would be difficult to identify any pill or vitamin with such a pronounced self-reported impact on so many more

Helping others is the foundation of mutual support groups. It is an antidote to the helplessness that is so prevalent in long-term care. In his report, Post reports some of the many reasons why helping others is good:

  • 68% of those who help others said it “has made me feel physically healthier”
  • 92% that it “enriches my sense of purpose in life”
  • 89% that it “has improved my sense of well-being”
  • 73% that it “lowers my stress levels”
  • 96% that it “makes people happier”
  • 77% that it “improves emotional health”
  • 78% that it helps with recovery “from loss and disappointment”
  • Those who help others have less trouble sleeping, less anxiety, less helplessness & hopelessness;
  • Those who help others have better friendships and social networks, and a sense of control over chronic conditions

But how much is enough?

The Magic Number – 2 Hours a Week
Post states that volunteering generates happiness, reduces depression and loneliness. But some studies suggest that there is a volunteering threshold—more is not always better. This is not a hard and fast rule, as everyone experiences volunteering in different ways. Generally speaking though, studies suggest that volunteering 2 hours per week is necessary to achieve the health benefits associated with helping others.¹ That is great news for us—something we can work towards. How can we find ways to make it easy for others to achieve this?

Attending a Mutual Support Group = One hour of volunteering—tick, done. 
Attending a mutual support group program means we are listening, supporting and helping one another. The act of simply listening attentively when others talk has a positive impact on stress-related illnesses. Bringing our attention and intention off of ourselves and on to others, improves well-being.

So how can we create another hour and make it easy for more group members to help others? There are of course, unlimited ways for group participants to volunteer within the senior’s care continuum and we are inviting you to submit your ideas. What really works well for you? What have you tried, what should be avoided, what is the best of the best…email us at [email protected].

¹It’s Good to Be Good (2012): 1 5th Annual Scientific Report on health, happiness and helping others. Stephen G. Post, PhD.

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