“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others.” The Dalai Lama
Why altruism is good for you
Being kind to others is good for your mental health and research has shown that people who are kind tend to be happier people. Not only does it make you feel good when you’re able to help somebody else, but it also gives you a sense of purpose and meaning. Think about well known celebrities who have everything that many others don’t. They have fame and tonnes of money and avoid many of the life struggles that most people on the planet struggle with.
After a while the numerous fashion designer outfits, the fancy cars and the huge houses diminish in their ability to provide happiness and fulfilment. This is why you see many celebrities becoming altruistic.
Think about it, you don’t need the money all the ostentatious life to live a life that includes altruism. Of course altruism is easier once your basic needs have been met. If you are still struggling to keep a roof over your head or to pay for food each day it will be much harder to consider the well-being of others ahead of your own. Social ties are known to be stronger in lower socioeconomic classes and in collectivist cultures (Carey and Markus, 2016), and consistently, helping is less frequent in wealthy individualist countries (Levine et al., 2001; Van de Vliert et al., 2004).
Being kind doesn’t cost anything and it’s more an attitude then a specific action that can make a huge difference in your life. I found that when I complimented strangers about their outfit in the supermarket, it gave me a spring in my step. It’s lovely to see when you brighten someone else’s day.
There are small ways that we can be altruistic and here are a few examples:
- paying for someone else’s coffee
- letting someone go ahead of you in the traffic
- smiling and saying thank you
- complimenting others
- holding the door for someone
- helping someone carry a heavy object
- just checking in with someone who is going through a hard time
- attending a protest
- supporting a charity
- donate blood
As you can see there are many small things that you can do each day as a gift to others. Generally you won’t ever regret spreading positivity in the world. Sure you will get those that do not appreciate your gestures but do it because it’s kind rather than for the response you get. Pure altruism is about giving to others without expecting anything in return. It is the act of giving that is key, not the expectation of a positive response. Individuals who brag and boast about their altruistic behaviours are possibly not doing it for the right reasons. When your kindness is driven by empathy and selflessness – you are on the right track. “pure” altruism is essentially other-focused.
In nations with strong social ties and high personal security (i.e., greater trust in others), people engage more in helping strangers, donating money to charity, and informal volunteering (Smith, 2015).When you are altruistic you are leaving your mark in this world. Your act of kindness might be something that another individual never forgets.