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The Health Rewards of Doing Good

Last week, we talked about the health benefits of living a purpose-driven life, and that sparked a response in the optimal wellbeing community. Our health coaches already recognize the impact that purpose can have on the whole of their wellbeing, but for many individuals at the early stages of their journeys, this idea might be new and perhaps even difficult to grasp. After all, the majority of the wellness industry isn’t having this kind of conversation.

We highlight these aspects of health because they matter. What you eat and how much you move will always be important, but that truly vibrant life you desire means addressing all Habits of Health.

The research on living with purpose or doing good—as far as it relates to your health—is still developing. What we do know, however, is promising. In addition to what we covered last week, we also know that:

  • Helping strangers has psychological benefits in teens, such as improving their sense of self-worth, according to the Journal of Adolescence.
  • For adults over 55, another study found that volunteering to tutor children helped to lower depression levels and lead to improvements in memory as well as stamina.
  • Working in your community can be a source of valuable friendships and exercise as your volunteer naturally leads you to meeting new people and moving about for your volunteer hours.
  • In a Social Science and Medicine article, researchers reported that over a 2-year study, participants who regularly volunteered spent 38% fewer nights in the hospital compared to their non-volunteering peers, and they were more likely to engage a wide range of Habits of Health such as regular cholesterol tests and prostate exams.

One of the authors of that last study, Sara Konrath, told The Atlantic, “One way to think about this is that when we care for ourselves, in a fundamental way, it allows us to care for others.”

And that brings us back to our discussion of purpose. It turns out that getting healthy for yourself, while worthwhile in its own right, may not be as powerful as getting healthy for others. When I say that, I am not talking about letting others dictate how you feel about yourself or what makes your life valuable. Rather, I am talking about how and where you direct the energy and longevity that comes with optimal wellbeing.

When you align your health goals with what matters most to you—perhaps it’s a cause or social issue, perhaps it’s your children, or perhaps it’s your coaching clients—amazing results can follow for you and for the people you care about.

Get out there and make a difference!

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