Remember the movie, “Pay it Forward”? It hit the screen in 2000 and has impacted lives ever since. The idea is to do something to help someone else. The person you helped cannot pay you for your service but pay by doing something to help someone else. Each person is asked to help three people who in turn help three people, who in turn help three people—like a Multi-Level Marketing Program. The product here is helping others in any way they need. Instead of paying you back, they pay it forward. The video at the end of this article shows 10 random acts of kindness that were caught on video. It’s worth watching.
Benefits of paying it forward with random acts of kindness
Paying it forward is not without reward. The person who benefits the most is you. When you do a random act of kindness or “Pay it forward” you benefit in many ways:
Oxytocin levels increase
You have an increase in “The Love Hormone.” Oxytocin, aids in lowering blood pressure and improving our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism, which is extra helpful when we’re in anxious or shy in a social situation.
“About half of participants in one study reported that they feel stronger and more energetic after helping others; many also reported feeling calmer and less depressed, with increased feelings of self-worth” CHRISTINE CARTER, UC BERKELEY, GREATER GOOD SCIENCE CENTER
A 2010 Harvard Business School survey of happiness in 136 countries found that people who are altruistic—in this case, people who were generous financially, such as with charitable donations—were happiest overall.
“People who volunteer tend to experience fewer aches and pains. Giving help to others protects overall health twice as much as aspirin protects against heart disease. People 55 and older who volunteer for two or more organizations have an impressive 44% lower likelihood of dying early, and that’s after sifting out every other contributing factor, including physical health, exercise, gender, habits like smoking, marital status and many more. This is a stronger effect than exercising four times a week or going to church.” CHRISTINE CARTER, AUTHOR, “RAISING HAPPINESS; IN PURSUIT OF JOYFUL KIDS AND HAPPIER PARENTS”
According to research from Emory University, when you are kind to another person, your brain’s pleasure and reward centers light up, as if you were the recipient of the good deed—not the giver. This phenomenon is called the “helper’s high.”
Like most medical antidepressants, kindness stimulates the production of serotonin. This feel-good chemical heals your wounds, calms you down, and makes you happy!
Pain and stress and anxiety decrease
Engaging in acts of kindness produces endorphins—the brain’s natural painkiller! Perpetually kind people have 23% less cortisol (the stress hormone) and age slower than the average population! A group of highly anxious individuals performed at least six acts of kindness a week. After one month, there was a significant increase in positive moods, relationship satisfaction and a decrease in social avoidance in socially anxious individuals. UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA STUDY
So what kind of things can you do?
If you don’t know what to do, think about your own neighborhood. What if each person in the area helped someone else who in turn paid it forward? What would your neighborhood be like by the end of the year? If the next neighborhood did the same and it caught on throughout your town, what do you think would happen to the crime rate? The jobless rate? The homeless rate? The juvenile delinquency rate? The domestic violence rate? I have no idea, but my guess is that all the numbers would show remarkable change for the better.
- Maybe there’s a little old lady (or man) who can’t get to the grocery store anymore and someone makes sure that he/she has a way to get there and back or someone goes shopping for them.
- Someone may have a serious illness and has no one to look in on them now and then—or help them with meals or contact their family. This list can be very long and require some people to help. Maybe you can organize that group.
- A single mom has a need one morning a week for someone to put her child on the school bus or keep the child for an hour in the afternoon when the bus drops him off. Can you do something like that?
- The neighbor on the corner lost his job and just needs some help until he can find employment – money, food, utility bills, etc.
- A new family moves in and knows no one. Remember when you moved? What did you need? They need that, too.
- The family down the street has a new baby. The needs here are endless.
- The high school is just down the street and there are students who need tutoring. Can you help?
- The retirement home a block away can use people to read or talk with the people there who have no family and few friends who can help. Can you?
- The neighbor across the street was in a car accident and needs a ride. Can you give him one while he tries to straighten things out?
Each neighborhood, each community, is a little different. Look at yours with new eyes – eyes that are looking for ways to help, ways to give instead of ways to take. There is nothing that I know of that is as powerful as this to heal YOUR loneliness, lack of self-esteem, feelings of isolation, sadness or whatever it is as this program. Try it – you might grow to love it.