Studies show that the brain releases feel-good chemicals when performing an act of generosity—a phenomenon psychologists call 'helper's high.'
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 11, 2022. It has since been updated.
A Reddit post got people reevaluating everything they know about give-and-take and how sometimes being overly helpful might not have the desired effect. A great parenting example shared to the MadeMeSmile subreddit detailed a valuable lesson an individual had learned from their mother on being a good neighbor. "I heard my mother asking our neighbor for some salt. I asked her why she was asking them as we had salt at home. She replied: 'It's because they're always asking us for things; they're poor. So I thought I'd ask something small from them so as not to burden them but at the same time make them feel as if we need them too.'" the post read.
Great article reminding us helping others has a personal positive effect. 💯— UpMore Today Inc. (@upmoretoday) August 10, 2020
"10 Facts That Prove Helping Others Is A Key To Achieving Happiness" by K. Yam and C. Keady found here: https://t.co/cJnuK1o1c6 #helpingothers #mentalhealth #payitforward #bekind pic.twitter.com/LenmA3gBdQ
"'That way it'll be easier for them to ask us for anything they need from us,'" it concluded. This thought-provoking lesson struck a chord with many Reddit users, including some who had never thought about the implications of a helpful hand. A few, who grew up with limited means, shared the other side of the story and how the feeling of being equally helpful helped maintain a sense of dignity even during the most difficult periods in their life.
"Being someone who grew up poor, I understand this pride and fear of becoming a burden on others. What always helped my mother was feeling like she earned whatever we got. So neighbors and family would have her or our help with something in exchange for something we needed. It helped us both with whatever we needed as well as helping us retain our pride and humanity," explained TheGreatPlathetsby. "I honestly do the same thing with people struggling in my community that I know. It allows them to accept help and both of us to retain our fullest sense of humanity. We have made the idea of struggling or being poor meaning you haven’t tried or worked enough when that often isn’t the case."
Why Science Says Helping Others Makes Us Happier - @mariabaltazzi shares why #kindness can be good for you https://t.co/Zip2weaYEg pic.twitter.com/iuQWpcF0PD— Woohooyoo (@GiveaWoohoo) September 20, 2018
"Receiving support ends up feeling like you are admitting you have failed in some aspect. I wish we could get past this idea, but in the meantime I am so happy others are taking how a struggling family feels in mind," the Reddit user added. The valuable lesson left quite an impression on Reddit user adrock747 who noted: "That is such a decent thing to do. I need to remember this and try to live up to this example. Good stuff."
Meanwhile, Reddit user Aerron broke down the psychology behind why many find it hard to accept help or favors without being in a position to repay it in some form. "It feels good to help others. So maybe if we can let others help us more, we can help others feel good. This is a good plan," they pointed out. "I never thought of it like that, but I think you're absolutely right. Amazing how one sentence can change how you perceive something that has been cemented in your mind for years," responded Reddit user DefNotAHuman.
Did you know that giving can actually give your brain a ‘Helper’s High?’ #GivingTuesday https://t.co/0v30QyUIhK pic.twitter.com/qfRNiLVMNS— Cleveland Clinic (@ClevelandClinic) November 28, 2017
As Aerron points out, giving back has a physical effect on your body. According to HuffPost, the act of doing good for others triggers the mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward. Studies show that the brain also releases feel-good chemicals when one does an act of generosity—a phenomenon psychologists call "helper's high." Such actions have been found to boost the self-esteem and overall well-being of an individual, while the increased feelings of social connectedness also do favors to one's self-esteem.