Living Longer on the “Helper’s High”?

Think you feel good when you volunteer to read to the elderly, or plant vegetables in an inner city garden space, or any of the other great things you probably do to help others? There might some real evidence why that is!

Back in 1956 a team of Cornell University researchers began following 427 women who where married with children. The researchers thought that the housewives with more children would experience the greatest stress, therefore supposing that these women would also die younger. But the researchers were wrong. 

They learned that education, class and work distinctions did not affect the women's longevity, nor did the number of children the women had to care for. After following the subjects for 30 years, they learned that although 36 percent of the women who volunteered experienced a major illness over the years, of those who did not volunteer, 52 percent  experienced a major illness. Hmmm.

Another study revealed that older adults who volunteer simply live longer than those in the study who do not, while still another study found early death among those who were volunteering a lot was 44 percent lower than those who did not--a greater effect on longevity than those in the study who exercised four times a week!

Here’s the medical deal: When we do good on behalf of others we reduce our stress levels, thus reducing the adverse affects of hormones like cortisol and high heart and breathing rates that adversely affect our immune and cardiovascular systems. These stress responses weaken the body’s defenses opening us up to abnormal cellular changes, including premature breakdown of natural functions and even cancer. In studies of telomeres—the end-caps of our genes—researchers found that long-term stress can shorten those end-caps, and shortened end-caps are linked with early death.

“Ultimately,” said one source, “the process of cultivating a positive emotional state through pro-social behaviors—being generous—may lengthen your life.”

So, add this evidence of a longer, even happier life to your own urges to put your hands and heart to work for others. Most people don’t need this evidence…but it is certainly nice to know. Happy helping all you great people!

Children going to the mall and posing for a picture on Santa's Lap is an age-old tradition. But what happens when a kid doesn't want to?

At one of the thousands of shopping malls around the country, a loving mother and dad took their son Brayden Deely to sit on Santa's lap. But Brayden is autistic and sitting on Santa's lap can be a fearsome thing for some children.  Since Brayden would only lie on the floor, this generous Santa got down on the floor with him to give Brayden the full experience.
When you think about it, Santa--whatever he is called around the world--is noted for one big thing: Generosity. 
It is his vital mission, each year to give something wonderful to every child. 

How wonderful that Brayden's parents now have that picture with Santa, and how wonderful there are Santas like this.
A declined credit card, not enough cash to pay a $200 grocery bill, a long line of annoyed customers behind you, and a crying baby. It's enough to make most parents want to sink into the floor, and probably how Jamie-Lynne Knighten felt one night earlier this month at a Trader Joe's in Oceanside, Calif., as she tried to calm her 5-month-old and find her phone so she could call her bank. But then 28-year-old Matthew Jackson stepped to the front of the line and offered to pay for her haul. "It just felt like this … great big bear hug," Knighten says. After refusing Jackson's offer, she eventually took him up on it, on the condition that she pay it forward when she had the chance. Knighten got his name and the gym where he worked, and tried to call him more than a week later.
But the manager began crying on the phone: Jackson had been killed in a car wreck less than 24 hours after he came to Knighten's rescue. "Why are the good people of this world taken too soon?" Knighten wrote in a Nov. 20 Facebook post. "He was a year younger than me and engaged to be married." 
Jackson's mom, LeeAnn Krymow, says her son's good deed exemplified his spirit, even when he was a child. "He loved to be kind." Knighten has set up "Matthew's Legacy" Facebook and Twitter tribute pages to "honor a one in a million man by spreading hope and kindness to everyone we meet."
What do we make of a story like that? Life seems so unfair sometimes. But people like Matthew Jackson leave a legacy of warmth and caring--and not a lot of people do that. Of course he will be missed by his family and friends, but an act of kindness starts a ripple effect that touches so many more people than you know. Matthew has found his way to eternity and will be always be remembered for his generosity and kindness.