The Surprising Mental Benefits of Helper's High: Why it Feels So Good to Give

By Krista


Last Updated: January 28, 2022

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said,

“To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering.”

For a fulfilling life, purpose and meaning is undeniably essential. Yet, in today’s modern world, so many of us struggle to find true meaning in our lives, leading to increasing rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. 

However, many other people have also derived meaning from helping others. Maybe you’ve noticed this too! After volunteering, you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. After helping your friend move, you feel good.

This little phenomenon is known as the “Helper’s High.” And surprisingly it can actually lead to a longer life (we aren’t kidding!).

So, here are a few words for helping others and how it actually boosts your mental health and wellness, guiding you toward fulfillment, longevity, and more. Why does it feel so dang good to give?


The Helper’s High Definition

The idea of a truly “selfless act” is rare, if not impossible. This isn’t to make you feel bad by any means. Rather, it’s a simple way to zoom out and view the world through a whole new lens. 

Imagine if we all helped each other? We’d all be far better off — and not just because we’ve been helped but because we’ve done the helping. This is what we mean by the fact that there really isn’t a truly selfless act. Philosophically, this is very debatable. But for the sake of this article, stick with us here!

The “Helper’s High” refers to the positive emotions you feel after selflessly serving others.

Yet, this selfless service isn’t so selfless after all, since it makes you feel good (at least, for the most part!). Many people report that this high feels like elation, exhilaration, and higher levels of energy. In fact, some have even compared it to the feelings you get after exercising.


So… Is Helper’s High Real?

In short, yes!

Psychologists have recognized this state of helper's high occurs in individuals after helping others. It’s thought that after these helpful acts, the brain releases endorphins, which make you feel good (and which also happens when you exercise). 

So, let’s dig a little deeper into this topic…


Does Volunteering Lead to a Longer Life?

Research actually shows that individuals who volunteer might actually have a longer lifespan than those who don’t. However, this isn’t all. The volunteering must be done for the sole purpose of helping others. In other words, despite you receiving mental health benefits, your motives for volunteering should be altruistic. 

Psychology Today hypothesizes that those who volunteer lead a longer life due to a number of factors, including less stress, increased socialization, and enhanced self-care. It’s also theorized that individuals who volunteer are more likely to be physically active.

This may fall in line with better self-care, as well as happen naturally through the activities of volunteering.

So, if you have an urge to help others, do so. You might just reap even greater benefits down the line, leading a fulfilling and longer life!

Now, let’s move onto how helping others impacts the brain. What’s going on beneath the surface?

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How Does Helping Others Affect the Brain?

As previously mentioned, when you help others, your brain produces endorphins.

Endorphins actually act similarly to morphine in the body, making you feel good. They give way to that “high” you feel after a selfless act. 

But this goes even deeper than just chemicals. When you help another person, the part of your brain associated with reward (the same part that activates when you eat food or have sex) literally lights up.

This part of the brain even lights up when you have the mere thought of helping others or donating to a charity of your choice. Crazy, right?

Some experts even suggest that the neural pathways associated with compassion, which is used during volunteer efforts, causes you to see a less “you” and “other” approach but rather a “we” approach to the world, allowing you to open your heart and care for others. 

It’s safe to say we probably need more of this in the world! Thus, if you’re looking for a little more purpose in life, find your passion through helping others and volunteering. 

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Does Volunteering Affect Mental Health?

This is a loud and resounding YES!

Volunteering has the incredible capacity to improve your mental health and wellness. It’s not just about your physical health. 

Research indicates that volunteers tend to have better mental health than non-volunteers. It’s also been shown that volunteering can reduce your risk of anxiety and depression. It does this, again, by reducing stress and enhancing those positive and happy feelings. 

And also as previously mentioned, volunteering can give you purpose, something that might be hard to find in today’s modern society. 


So… Get Out There & Volunteer!

You’ve learned the helper’s high definition and how it can improve your life.

Plus, you know volunteering helps those in need. So, why not dedicate some of your free time to helping another? We’ve all struggled at some point. We’ve all really needed someone at some point. This can be your turn to be that person for someone. 

Look up volunteering in your local area, and begin giving back. You’re doing others (and yourself) a ton of good!

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Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels


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