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One Caregiver’s Journey by Eleanor Gaccetta tells the story of the time she stood as her mother’s caregiver. She shares how she provided care for her mother for almost a decade, which made her feel fulfilled.
Reaching out and helping others may be a plain sailing task, but it’s no small feat. It’s sacrificing one’s time and putting in effort and extra labor on top of one’s usual tasks not for their benefit but for another’s. With an outcome that benefits another and not oneself, such an experience is typically considered altruistic in nature.
However, how true is it that helping others only benefits the receiver, not the giver?
Does Altruism Truly Exist?
People claim that altruism is never pure, and while this may only be an allegation, there can be reasons to believe so. Whenever people extend a hand to help others, their other hand may be reaching out to satisfy a desire for their good. While this personal benefit isn’t evident or perceptible enough for others, this doesn’t mean they’re inexistent.
Take author Eleanor Gaccetta’s experience as an example. In her book One Caregiver’s Journey, she shares how being her mother’s caregiver was a truthfully self-sacrificing task to put herself into. By doing it for almost a decade, it can be deduced that she wholeheartedly did it with her love for her mother. However, who’s to say that offering her time for years isn’t a byproduct or an unconscious sacrifice she made because she felt indebted to her mother? Not to mention, caregiving can be an extremely self-fulfilling task.
It’s suggested that people may have self-interested motivations accompanying altruistic behavior. Some have grounds to believe people are only treating others well in fear of displeasing their religion and its beliefs. Others think volunteerism is some people’s way of boosting their ego or reputation. There are various reasons to believe that helping others isn’t genuinely altruistic.
Besides one’s self-esteem, religious beliefs, and pleasing one’s satisfaction in line, what other personal satisfaction can the giver receive through these kind gestures?
Benefits of Helping Others
Studies have indicated that giving back to the community doesn’t just make the world better. It also makes every giver a better person. Apparently, helping others can also be a means of helping oneself, as it boosts happiness, health, and overall well-being. Above these are other benefits the giver receives whenever they extend a helping hand.
Helping others doesn’t only help the receiver live a longer, more comfortable life. It also mirrors this benefit to the giver. Research shows that volunteering can be a satisfying experience in that it helps one manage stress and decrease the chances of disease. Knowing that one’s life has been made more pleasant also increases people’s satisfaction. After all, everyone thrives on having a purpose, and volunteerism can be one purpose fulfilled.
By helping others, people interact with more people outside their closest circle. This contact can alleviate one’s loneliness, enhancing social life. As social beings by nature, this growing relationship with others can be highly fulfilling, thus reducing rates of depression. All these effects of helping others can contribute to one’s life satisfaction, allowing one to enjoy life.
Possibility of Reducing Chronic Pain
According to a study conducted with people suffering from chronic pain, working as volunteers can help alleviate symptoms they’ve felt. Whether this is because helping others distracts them from their pain or this act genuinely makes them happy, which boosts their endorphins, making them feel better, regardless of the reason, volunteerism has been proven to ease chronic pain.
Lowering Blood Pressure
When people experience heart problems, typical health advice would be to reduce red meat or avoid stressful activities. Adding a regular volunteer schedule is also a great alternative. Research done with older individuals has shown that rendering at least 200 hours of volunteering have decreased their risk of hypertension by 40%. This can be related to enhancing their social lives, which influences their life satisfaction.
Providing a Sense of Purpose and Satisfaction
Everyone lives with the desire to fulfill a purpose or seek meaning. A perfect way to achieve this is through helping others. By reaching out to assist others, people cement the role of being a “helper” in society. They can confidently say that they’ve lived a satisfying life by going beyond simply living for themselves, but they’ve also helped others.