Overcoming What Ails You by Helping Others

Overcoming What Ails You by Helping OthersOvercoming What Ails You by Helping Others

By Georgianna Donadio, MSc., PhD.

The groundbreaking book, The Healing Power of Doing Good”, by Allan Luks and writer Peggy Payne, ushered in an understanding and renaissance of helping others. The 1991 book offers insights into the relationship between health and doing good things for other people. Peggy Luks led the first research linking emotional and physical health benefits experienced by those who help others. This was found to be particularly true of volunteers who shared similar circumstances or conditions as those they were supporting.

Marie Pagano, PhD, at Case Western Reserve University of Medicine, 20 years after Luks and Payne’s ground breaking book, had published her research on the Helper Therapy Principal (HTP) in the Alcohol Treatment Quarterly. This is based on the same principals evidenced in the work of Luks that shows when people help other people they are in essence helping themselves through the positive behavior they are enacting with their compassionate assistance of others.

HTP is especially impactful when the helper and the individual they are helping share the same or similar condition or concern. Pagano’s published research demonstrates that a wide
variety of health conditions and concerns can improve with the application of HTP.

Individuals suffering from Multiple Sclerosis who volunteered in monthly phone calls with other MS suffers showed a reduction in depression, as well as an increase in their self-esteem and self-confidence.  Individuals suffering from chronic pain syndromes who volunteered to interact and counsel others experiencing chronic pain, experienced a substantial decrease in their chronic pain and depression than they had been experiencing prior to the volunteering.

One of the most well-known and well documented interventions is the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Step program. The basis of the intervention is that individuals who have experienced alcohol issues, counsel and are counseled by others with the same condition. Alcoholics who help others have a 50% greater chance of staying sober during their first year of sobriety than those who do not. And again with this cohort of volunteers, levels of self-esteem improved and levels of depression decreased.

As Luks points out in his highly researched book, that when we incorporate helping others into our lifestyle we experience less depression, higher self-esteem, greater life satisfaction and even a longer lifespan. If you are looking for a behavior change to improve any aspect of your health or life, you may want to look for a way to help others and thereby help yourself!

Research for article – do not include in article

https://www.goodnet.org/articles/7-scientific-facts-about-benefit-doing-good an article published almost 30 years after the book was written, identified the seven scientific healing benefits of doing good. Here are the findings


According to a 2013 study examining the relationship between volunteering and hypertension, giving back can have a significant impact on blood pressure. Researchers found that adults over 50 who volunteered about four hours a week were 40 percent less likely than non-volunteers to have developed hypertension four years later.

Additionally, being generous can have the same effect, according to a 2010 study, which found that the less money people gave away, the higher their cortisol levels.


Researchers from the University of Buffalo found a link between giving, unselfishness and a lower risk of early death. The findings show that subjects who provided tangible assistance to friends or family members (running errands, helping with child care, etc.), reported less stressful events and, consequently, had reduced mortality. In other words, “helping others reduced mortality specifically by buffering the association between stress and mortality.”

  1. DOING GOOD MAKES US FEEL BETTER – Ever felt a sort of “rush” after performing a good deed? That sensation is known as ‘helper’s high’and is produced when your brain releases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals of the brain. When you do something good for someone else, your brain’s pleasure centers light up, releasing endorphin and producing this high. Not to mention, doing good has also been known to generate feelings of satisfaction and gratitude.

  2. DOING GOOD MAKES US HAPPIER AT WORK – According to a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, altruists in the office are more likely to be committed to their work and less likely to quit their jobs. The researchers also found that individuals in their mid-30s who rated helping others in their work as important, reported they were happier with their life when surveyed 30 years later. Overall, the study came to an important conclusion about office altruism: those who help others are happier at work than those who don’t prioritize helping others.

  3. DOING GOOD PROMOTES MENTAL HEALTH – The results are in! After an extensive review of 40 studies on the effect of volunteering on general health and happiness, the BMC Public Health journal has concluded that volunteering is also good for mental health. The review found that – along with improved well-being and life satisfaction – volunteering is also linked to decreased depression.

  4. DOING GOOD LEADS TO HAPPINESS – People who engage in kind acts become happier over time.” It’s that simple, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. Lyubomirsky, who has studied happiness for over 20 years, found that performing positive acts once a week led to the most happiness. In addition, Researcher Stephen Post of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine found that when we give of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly improved.

  5.  DOING GOOD WILL MOTIVATE YOU TO DO GOOD AGAIN – A 2012 study published in Psychological Science found that thinking about times you’ve helped others will make you want to help others again. The research found that reflecting on your past good deeds makes you feel selfless and want to help more, as compared to reflecting on the times others have helped you. In other words, thinking about what you’ve given others – and not only what you’ve received – will motivate you to do good again and again.