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updated: 10/25/2010 6:11 PM

Can helping others improve your health?

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Daily Herald Staff

Yes, according to scientific studies. Not only does it "feel good" to be kind to others, but it can have both physical and mental benefits, including:

•Creating a rush of euphoria, known as a "helper's high," that releases the body's natural painkillers, the endorphins. This initial rush is then followed by a longer-lasting period of improved emotional well-being.

• Improving stress-related health problems, including overeating, ulcers, and more. A drop in stress may, for some people, decrease the constriction within the lungs that leads to asthma attacks.

• Enhancing feelings of joyfulness, emotional resilience and vigor.

• Supplying social contact and reducing the unhealthy sense of isolation.

• Decreasing both the intensity and the awareness of physical pain.

• Reducing bad attitudes, such as chronic hostility, that negatively arouse and damage the body.

• Recreating a sense of well-being and the resulting health benefits for hours or even days whenever the helping act is remembered.

• Increasing the sense of self-worth, happiness and optimism, as well as decreasing feelings of helplessness and depression.

• Creating emotions like a sense of personal bonding from kind acts that can strengthen the immune system.

Source: "The Healing Power of Doing Good: The Health and Spiritual Benefits of Helping Others," by Allan Luks and Peggy Pane.