• James Hock - MRH Faculty

Altruism and Happiness

By Jaelyn M.

Have you ever complimented a complete stranger and the smile on their face brightened your day? Or have you ever given away the last slice of food or the last dollar in your pocket to someone who needed it more and a warm sensation took over your body? That, my friends, is called altruism. Altruism is the unselfish concern for other people. Many people have never heard the word altruism or altruistic behaviors before and those who have tend to see it negatively. They see altruism as a burden.

‘Why should I go out of my way to help others when I can’t help myself?’

‘How is their happiness supposed to benefit me?’

They think this way because they do not understand the benefits that come from helping others with no personal gain in mind. Altruism is practiced in many religions but studies have found that everyone has altruistic tendencies. According to the greater good science center at the University of California, Berkeley, “Studies have found that people’s first impulse is to cooperate rather than compete; that toddlers spontaneously help people in need out of a genuine concern for their welfare; and that even non-human primates display altruism.”We all have the urge to do things simply out of wanting to help, not because we feel obligated to out of duty or religious reasoning. It involves us acting out of concern for the well-being of other people.

Charity work often comes to mind, whether it be donations of your money or services. Although that is considered altruistic acts, there are many things in our daily lives we could do as well. Simply holding the door for someone struggling with loads of groceries can be an instant mood booster. Small gestures make huge impacts. For example, every year on my birthday I work with the homeless. I work soup kitchens, homeless shelters, or even just collecting blankets and socks and handing them out. I have also volunteered at the children's hospital as well as Christmas drives where families in need come to a warehouse and we hand out free toys that were donated for Christmas. I do these things year round and no one, besides close friends and family, know about it. I do this for myself because it makes me happy to make others happy. This is considered altruism, selflessly helping others.

If we could all tap into our altruistic tendencies, especially during this pandemic, we could be living in a less stressful society.


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