Do good to feel good during the COVID-19 pandemic

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Chen

Photo Courtesy of Lauren Chen

Almost a year since it first emerged, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in our lives. In the midst of it all, many people have stepped up to help those in our communities who have been affected the worst. They have organized food drives, donated to food banks, stitched face masks, made phone calls to check up on senior citizens, created artwork, and written letters to strangers in nursing homes who are not able to receive visitors. Interestingly,  many of those who have helped others have also reported experiencing positive results themselves.

According to The New York Times article, “The Science of Helping Out” by Tara Parker-Pope, there is scientific evidence to show that helping others improves your own happiness.  Research shows that just the thought of donating money or volunteering stimulates the pleasure-seeking part of the brain, making us feel good. Although altruistic people do not help others expecting anything in return, here are 5 ways that doing good could make you feel good. 

 

1. Helping Others Decreases Stress and Anxiety.

“The Science of Helping Out” points to research showing that helping others causes the level of stress hormone, cortisol, to drop. We feel less stressful and anxious when we help someone else because we feel in control. This is because helping others helps us develop a protective barrier from feeling stressed out and anxious.

2. Regulating Our Emotions Becomes Easier.

The article, “10 benefits of helping others,” published by the University College of London states that helping someone less fortunate (such as someone who is suffering because of the pandemic) can make us forget our own problems even for a short time. “The Science of Helping Out” points to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago that  shows that talking others through their problems makes us come up with better solutions for our own problems. Kohta Zaiser, Deputy Field Director at Todd Gloria for Mayor, shares that his career in politics allows him to help others and make real, significant change in people’s lives. He states that the help he has been able to offer others during the pandemic has made him a better person, “with less anger and more appreciation” for his own life. Mr. Zaiser’s work has helped him become more aware of his privilege and given him a better perspective on the struggles faced by members of our society.

3. Builds Connections with Others.

Helping others during the pandemic connects us with others in our community, which promotes companionship. According to “10 Benefits of Helping Others,” the act of helping someone eliminates loneliness for us as well as those with whom we connect. Lauren Chen is a Customer Happiness Agent at GoFundMe who has always enjoyed helping others. When the pandemic broke out, she started sending artwork through the mail to healthcare workers and nursing home residents. Ms. Chen stated, “With visitation at hospitals and nursing homes so restricted this year, I decided that sending surprise art and notes by mail to people who can no longer enjoy in-person visits would be an excellent use of scrap paper and craft supplies.”  At a time when she can no longer go into the office to work, mailing artwork to people affected by the pandemic helps Ms. Chen connect with the greater community.

 

(Courtesy of Lauren Chen)

4. Increases Our Happiness and Life Satisfaction.

According to “7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others” research has shown that helping those in need increases your happiness and life satisfaction. Food Bowl Market in South Park, San Diego, is one of the grocery stores that donated groceries, money, and gift cards to the many food drives at Albert Einstein Academies Charter School.  Food Bowl Market continued to generously donate even when grocery stores all over the country were experiencing losses due to the pandemic. Asked about her experience, co-owner Mrs. Karen Halebo stated, “It made everyone at Food Bowl so happy to be giving back to our community.”  The store saw the food shortage during the pandemic as an opportunity to give back to the community that has supported it through the years. 

5. Provides Meaning to Our Lives.

The article, “7 Scientific Benefits of Helping Others,” also states that helping others during the pandemic could also provide meaning to our lives. Being quarantined during the pandemic could make you feel lost and helpless. But, when you help someone who really needs help, you promote positive feelings by being productive, replacing negative feelings with a sense of self-worth. For example, Mr. Kohta Zaiser states that he is reminded daily of the positive impact one person can have simply by prioritizing kindness and empathy over self-interest . 

 

However, for some, doing good during the pandemic does not always make you feel good. Mr. Jose Diaz, Dean of Students and ASB Director of Albert Einstein Academies in San Diego, is someone who has been taking groceries and school supplies to students who do not have transportation to pick them up from school. Mr. Diaz shared that this experience made him “feel terrible for people that have a great need in a country that has a lot of resources.” He was struck by the gross inequalities in the community. Yet, Mr. Diaz continues to put his own discomfort aside to serve his students.

There are many like Mr. Diaz, Ms. Chen, Mrs. Halabo, and Mr. Zaiser in our society who show us what it is like to be truly altruistic. If you are interested in helping others during this pandemic, there are many ways to do it. For example, Lauren Chen refers to organizations like https://www.allforgood.org that will mail your artwork for you. “You can send a photo of your notes and they will mail them off into the universe (and straight into someone’s heart),” says Chen.

What a great way to step up without stepping out!