Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cultivating Well-being: Why Altruism Works For Our Own Good?

What a paradox, right? Altruism, which is our wish for others to be happy and find happiness, is one of the most important behaviors that will contribute to our own well-being. So, being kind and generous increases our well-being.

Beware, acts of kindness can enrich the giver as well as the beneficiary on one condition: it shouldn’t become obligatory or more than we can handle, otherwise our health and quality of life can rapidly decline.

However, in order for us to cultivate our own well-being we need for others to be happy as well. 

As Matthieu Ricard, puts it "otherwise, what's the point?" In a recent interview he said.

 "Altruism is a benevolent state of mind. To be altruistic is to be concerned about the fate of all those around us and to wish them well. This should be done together with the determination to act for their benefit. Valuing others is the main state of mind that leads to altruism."
"When altruism is our dominant state of mind – our default mode – it expresses itself as benevolence toward anyone who might come into the field of our attention and translates itself as goodwill, readiness and willingness to care. When we perceive that others have a pressing need, we develop empathic concern. When the need is related to a yearning for happiness, altruism will foster the realization of that aspiration. When the need is related to suffering, compassion will induce us to remedy the suffering and its causes."

Research shows that:

* Helping others makes people feel good about themselves, consequently happier.

* Altruism leads us to feel compassion for others, and through compassion we tend to act on behalf of the one that needs help.

*Acts of spontaneous kindness increase the well-being of the person doing the deed.

*The tendency to help others is innate but training school children for altruism has improved their behavior. So altruism can be increased through training.

*Being kind promotes social feeling, a sense of community, which is a significant factor in increasing happiness.

*Older people who have altruistic tendencies and help others, or volunteer in some way, are more active, live longer, and feel better about themselves, increasing their overall happiness and well-being.

So, apparently being good to others benefits us. I definitely need to do some training! Win-win situation! Any philosophers out there? Quite a paradox, don't you think?

P.S. Cultivating Well-Being (1), Cultivating Well-Being (2) 5 basic ideas to pursue, and Cultivating Well-Being (3) an antidote to anxiety.

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