How Altruism Creates Healthy Benefits

By Anna Holcombe

Who knew helping others could in turn benefit your own health?

As college students we are often encouraged to volunteer, offering up what little free time we have in order to help others. These acts of altruism occur in many different ways, from volunteering with an organization to providing a ride for a friend. Yes, sometimes we only are contributing because we feel an obligation to do so, but no matter the initial reasoning, helping others will always create benefits for our own health as well.

The personal benefits of random (and not so random) acts of kindness can foster spiritual and developmental growth.  Direct advantages can include “helper’s high” or a sense of euphoria, decreased stress due to a greater sense of calmness, a more positive and open-eyed prospective on life, a sense of belonging to a community, and even physiological benefits such as stronger immune system and reduction of high blood pressure. I was able to experience a few of these last weekend when I volunteered at the “Pedal for Peds” bike race. People of the UNC community came together on a Saturday morning to bike a 29 mile trail in order to raise money for the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.  It was inspiring to watch children with cancer and their parents and loved ones bike parts of the trail.  Although exam week is right around the corner, I was able to step back and appreciate the important things in life like personal health and the love of my family. In our hectic college lives we need these types of stress relievers.

So, how does a UNC college student get involved? Visiting the Pit is probably one of the most effective and easiest ways to find one way or another to get involved.  If you don’t find anything that interests you there, be sure to check out all the flyers around campus. The next time you see a wall or pole consumed by colorful paper, don’t just walk past without a care. Stop and find one that will allow you to incorporate your own personal passions with helping others. I promise you will reap rewards and helping the cause you are supporting will benefit your health in more ways than you can imagine.

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