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Get Healthy Helping Others

The best way to get healthy often costs little or no money. For example, we all need to eat, but you don’t have to spend more money to make healthier food choices, especially if you follow our guidelines on how to get healthy on a budget. Exercising doesn’t need to cost more than a pair of walking shoes or a yoga mat and some yoga DVDs. And one of the best ways to get healthy doesn’t cost a penny—we can experience many health benefits simply by reaching out and helping others.

Helping others—whether it’s through our work, volunteering, or simply reaching out to people we come into contact with—gives us a greater sense of purpose and happiness in our lives. Societies where people are closely interconnected and where helping others is an integral part of daily life tend to have the happiest, healthiest, and longest living people.

There are many ways we can help others, such as volunteering. Volunteers make a tremendously positive impact on the lives of others—whether it’s helping kids in youth programs, teaching others to read, assisting at a hospital or church, or helping seniors or the disabled.

Volunteering in your community can also build strong bonds and relationships that are based on shared positive goals. Research has shown that older adults who volunteer live longer, have greater functional ability, and have lower rates of depression. For those who are younger, volunteering also provides an opportunity to develop valuable life and career skills.

Rob Watson, a retired 70 year old, finds great happiness in volunteering twice a week at his local animal rescue farm. “There are days in the winter when it’s hard to go outside and work on the farm, but when I think of the animals and the other volunteers who are depending on me, I don’t want to let them down. I was a vegetarian for health reasons for many years before I started reaching out to help animals. Now I’ve found a completely new purpose for being a vegetarian—caring for animals—and I want to do all I can to help.”

Another way to get on the helping bandwagon is to look at our work and profession as a way to serve others, rather than just as a job. Just having the “helping spirit” can be a tremendous benefit to yourself and others. When we focus our purpose on helping, rather than just working, we can find many ways to improve the lives of the people we are serving and working for. This fosters a deeper sense of meaning to our work.

Renee Strauss recounts a time when she was pregnant and suffering from the flu in the midst of a winter cold front. “Before I got sick, I would regularly visit an elderly woman down the street, who lived in a run down house, to take her hot meals. She was most appreciative. Shortly before I got the flu, our heat went out and we weren’t able to get it fixed right away. I had a fever and the house was so cold it was almost unbearable. My elderly neighbor was concerned about me and suggested I open the oven for heat and sleep in the kitchen. I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of that before! It practically saved my life. My reaching out to help her ended up helping me and my unborn child as well.”

Because our lives are interconnected, it’s natural for us to want help each other. And the more we do so, the more harmony and peace we’ll experience in our lives.