The power of doing things for others

Altruism: The act of putting other people’s needs before our own.

Whilst it’s obvious that the act of altruism has benefits to the receiver, it can also have a great deal of effect on the provider as well. When we do good things for others it can have a huge impact our own physical and mental health and wellbeing.

Doing good for others can:

  • •   Promote changes in the brain which help to reduce anxiety & stress, and improve sleep.
  • •   Help us live longer - e.g. volunteers/carers typically live longer lives.
  • •   Improve the immune system and protect against disease (due to reduced chronic cortisol elevation)
  • •   Diffuse negative emotions such as anger, frustration and hostility.
  • •   Reduce loneliness and build stronger social connections, building resilience and support to deal with day to day problems.
  • •   Increase physical activity levels and reduce risk of chronic disease
  • •   Increase confidence and self-esteem by providing the opportunity to engage in meaningful activities
  • •   Provide a new outlook/perspective. Helping others in need can help us appreciate what we have, as opposed to what is missing.
  • •   Have a ripple effect – One random act of kindness can improve confidence, control, happiness and optimism for both parties. This can then spread across a workplace, social setting, or organisation, contributing to an overall more positive community.

Some random acts of kindness include:

  • •   Donate things you no longer need to charity
  • •   Give up your seat to an elderly, disabled or pregnant person
  • •   Let someone jump the queue at the supermarket
  • •   Help a mother carry her pram down the stairs or hold the door for her
  • •   Let a fellow driver merge into your lane
  • •   Donate blood
  • •   Make a cup of tea for your work colleagues
  • •   Leave an encouraging anonymous note on someone’s desk or on a café table
  • •   Stop and help someone with a flat tyre
  • •   Help a friend move house
  • •   Make a meal for someone who you know is going through a difficult time
  • •   Hold the door open for the person behind you
  • •   Bake something nice for a friend or colleague
  • •   Take a minute to help a tourist who is lost
  • •   Pick up some rubbish from the street


Volunteering is a great way to do good and put others first. Evidence shows that people of all ages who volunteer benefit from increased feelings of self-esteem, motivation, wellbeing and social connection.

Before you incorporate volunteering into your lifestyle there are a couple of things you should consider first, including:

  • •   What are your interests/passions/skills? Volunteering is likely to be more easily incorporated into your life if it’s something you enjoy/have an interest in. For example: If you love singing - help out with a choir, if gardening is your passion - find a community garden, or if you love animals - volunteer your time at a shelter.
  • •   Don’t overdo it! Over-committing is bad for our health and wellbeing. Helping others doesn’t have to cost money or take a lot of time - start small and build up if you have capacity.

Some ideas for how you can get involved with volunteering:

  • •   Become involved in a charity that you are passionate about.
  • •   Involve your friends, family and neighbours in community projects.
  • •   Help create a communal garden or start-up a book club.
  • •   Help out at a local school, aged care facility or animal shelter.
  • •   If your local community has experienced a natural disaster, help with the clean-up.
  • •   Join the local fire brigade, ambulance service or SES.

Doing something for a good cause

Supporting a cause that is close to your heart can have huge benefits for both the cause you are supporting and your own sense of wellbeing and achievement. Ideas for how you can get behind a good cause include:

  • •   Follow your chosen charity on social media and keep up-to-date with the work they’re doing and how you can help.
  • •   Hold a fundraising event in your local community or at work.
  • •   Participate in charity events, e.g. Biggest Morning Tea, Jeans for Genes Day, Daffodil Day, or Red Nose Day.
  • •   Raise money by taking part in a fun run/walk

Although carrying out good deeds for other people can make you feel good, don’t forget to keep in mind why you’re doing it – to put others’ needs before your own. Do something small for someone else just for the sake of it.

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