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In honour of Mandela Day, we ask: Can doing good make you healthier?



18 July stands for Mandela Day, an occasion that celebrates Madiba’s life and encourages others to honour the world-famous former President. People all over the world are gearing up to perform a good deed in the name of Mandela, and studies suggest that helping others actually contributes to bettering your health.

In an effort to pin down a name for this phenomenon of ‘feeling better’, researchers have started referring to it it as the ‘helper’s high’. They found that altruism, in all its forms, affects our health and even our longevity.

This comprehensive study of altruism in the forms of benevolence, compassion, generosity and kindness is, as GreaterGood explains, a study that stretches across several scientific disciplines; including evolution, genetics, human development, neurology, social science and positive psychology.

Looking at the biological underpinnings of stress, researchers have found altruism to be an effective antidote for stress. The doctors at WebMD further state that “these studies indicate that we’re dealing with something that’s extremely powerful. Ultimately, the process of cultivating a positive emotional state through pro-social behaviors — being generous — may lengthen your life.”


Although it is true that the exact physiological responses have not yet been studied, a few other studies do point to a lowered stress response and an improved immunity. This type of altruistic love activates a very different part of the brain that is active in, for example, romantic love. The exact hormone activated in this response is known as oxytocin, according to HuffPost Healthy Living. It is therefore interesting to note that acts of kindness creates an emotional warmth, that triggers the release of this hormone. Usually known for its role in preparing mothers for motherhood, this hormone has also shown to establish trusting relationships between both men and women.

Still unsure if participating in Mandela Day is a good idea? In addition to the numerous health benefits, the positive change you will be making in society and the community of do-gooders that you will be joining, it is important to make this decision by yourself and for yourself. To view a list of charities you can join in the Western Cape on 18 July, click here.  To view a list of charities you can join in Jozi on 18 July, click here.


author: Zone Fitness