Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Psychology of Helping

Someone said, What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others remains and is immortal.

Last month I ran for a cause. I requested my friends & colleagues to chip in. To my surprise, response was overwhelming.

Have you ever wondered why people volunteer and help others in need?

People who volunteer are doing work that promises them no obvious personal gain. Sometimes it may involve significant costs. For celebrities, it is a fashion statement to involve in volunteering or work for a cause.

Let us try to understand the psychology behind this noble act. Psychologists have listed key drivers based on extensive research on this subject.

-Values.Volunteering to satisfy personal values or humanitarian concerns. For some people this can have a religious component. Their motive behind doing so is mainly on humanitarian concerns.

-Community concern.Volunteering to help a particular community, such as a neighborhood or ethnic group, to which they feel attached. We see a lot of community groups who pool in the money and help people who are part of their own community.

-Esteem enhancement.Volunteering to feel better about themselves or to release stress. Helping is emotionally rewarding and immensely satisfying.

-Understanding. Volunteering to gain a better understanding of other people, culture or place. People involve in voluntary works in emerging economies to appreciate cultural nuances.

-Personal development Volunteering to challenge oneself, to meet new people or for career advancement. People start their career by volunteering, grow their network and then start a new venture or take up a job.

    There are some studies that say helping is biologically motivated & runs in the genes. Studies have also shown that children who have parents with such behavior learn to inculcate helping behavior in them quickly. Studies have related altruism to religion, e.g. Buddhism sees altruism as a fundamental property of human nature.

    So, when I am helping others, I am actually helping myself

    We're quite familiar with the stories of survivors of tragic events helping other survivors. Have you ever thought that it is a common survival strategy? Yes, focusing on others can give them a place to stand when the rest of their world may be crumbling.

    When we give back, we are spreading joy like a perfume, which cannot be poured on someone without getting some on our self. When we freely give our self there is little room left for feeling depressed, sad or lonely.

    I can complete this article, without mentioning health & wellbeing! Research shows that unselfish individuals have reduced mortality rates and have better physical & mental health. A person who gives generously to others might live a more functional, happier, and healthier life. It also shows that helping behavior increases immunity & relieves pain by decreasing stress.

    As you grow older you will discover, that you have two hands; One for helping yourself, the other for helping others. -Abraham Lincoln