How Helping Others Can Reduce Stress and Increase Happiness

Research Has Shown that Volunteering Can Reduce Stress

Adult granddaughter assisting her grandmother sitting in wheelchair
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Stress is becoming more and more common. Between work, family and other obligations, it can be easy to feel overworked, frustrated and burned out. While you can practice stress-relieving techniques like yoga or meditation, you may find that helping others is the best form of stress release and it could even save your life. 

When you focus your attention on the needs of someone else, your stress levels have been scientifically proven to go down.

That helps minimize the impact of stress on your body, improving your physical health. 

Impact of Stress on Health

A 2015 study published in the Clinical Psychological Science journal found that relieving the impact of stress on health can be accomplished through helping others.While it was a small study, its results were eye-opening. 77 adults between the ages of 18 and 44 participated in the study. Each night, they received an automated call reminding them to complete a daily questionnaire. 

The questionnaire had queries about the day's stressful events, such as the commute, work and finance. It also tracked helpful behaviors and small acts of kindness and the resulting emotions. The researchers found that those who performed more daily acts of kindness were less likely to feel stressed. On days when they could not do any acts of kindness, they reported more stress and negativity. The study suggests that we can help ourselves manage stress and feel better through doing good deeds for other people.


Further study will need to be done to analyze this theory, but it has promising implications for those experiencing high levels of stress. 

Small Acts of Kindness to Reduce Stress

You don't need to be extremely wealthy or have tons of free time to get the benefits. Even small gestures, like holding the door for a stranger, had the potential to reduce stress.

Here are a few simple deeds you can do to help others and potentially lower your stress levels:

  • Pay It Forward: When you're at the toll on the freeway or at the drive-thru window, pay for the car behind you. When they get to the window, it will be a very unexpected surprise for them and requires only a small amount of money. 
  • Share With Others: Bake a cake or other dessert and bring it into the office breakroom for everyone to share. Your coworkers will be thrilled.
  • Clean out the Closet: De-clutter your closet or basement and donate old clothes, toys and books to a nearby shelter. You'll help people in need of these goods while streamlining your home. 
  • Volunteer: Volunteer your skills to a local non-profit. Whether you are a photographer, web-designer or cook, non-profits are always in need of help from professionals and would appreciate the assistance. Or, you can work directly with those in need by volunteering at a homeless shelter, animal rescue or soup kitchen. 

You don't need to do grand gestures in order to make a difference and help your health. Small acts of kindness done over time can reap large rewards for your well-being. 


Ansell, E. "Helping Others Dampens the Effects of Everyday Stress". Clinical Psychological Science, 2015.

Schwartz C, Meisenhelder JB, Ma Y, Reed G. Altruistic Social Interest Behaviors are Associated with Better Mental Health. Psychosomatic Medicine. September/October 2003.

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