5 Ways You Can Help Yourself by Helping Others

help others

My mission is to help women connect with their passion in every way; they can and do help us all connect with each other to make the world a better place. I have this vision of building a community of strong women helping one another to succeed and helping to mentor women and girls coming up the ladder. Women helping women; we’re creating a movement and growing a sisterhood for a better tomorrow.

I recently joined Women of Hope, the advisory board of Convoy of Hope Women Empowerment Program. This inspiring international program shows how the most poverty stricken women, with a little training and a micro-loan, can start their own businesses. They can run and grow them to help their families, sustain their communities and boost their country’s economy. I have such confidence in my connection with women that I’m working harder than ever to lift up as many women as possible. And here’s why I want you to join me.

1. When one of us suffers we all suffer.

Just as when someone smiles at us, we naturally smile back, when someone is in pain, our bodies also reflect that emotion and physical sensation. James Gross’s research at Stanford shows that our wiring for empathy is so deep that, just by observing someone else in pain, the “pain matrix” in our brain is activated. They actually measured it.

One of the contributing authors to my book, “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life,” Rebecca Tinsley, says that Western women often have difficulty responding to the needs in developing countries. They feel overwhelmed by the need, so they turn a blind eye. However, Rebecca couldn’t do that. When she met the refugees of Darfur, she wrote their stories, founded Waging Peace and her Network4Africa foundation to educate the women and children who survived genocide. She advises Western women to choose a small population to start and see how much change you can create. One of Rebecca’s programs has transformed 50,000 lives with everyone working to lift up the others.

2. It’s our nature and brings out the best in all of us.

Part of our survival instinct is to help each other. As a crisis team leader, I worked with others to help the victims of 911, Hurricane Katrina and other catastrophes. It always amazes me to watch people who have lost everything turn to help other people. The worst circumstances seem to bring out the best in us. But we shouldn’t wait for a catastrophe to help others.

3. It is the greatest gift you can give (and it doesn’t cost a dime).

When you show someone that you think she has value, you can transform her life. One of my favorite stories is the one Rhonda Sciortino tells about a teacher who was the first person to show her kindness. After having been abandoned at birth and abused as a child, this teacher showed that she deserved more. She emancipated herself and now helps children who need her kindness.

Marcia Reynolds tells a similar story in “Leading Women,” about the lowest point in her life, when she found herself in jail. She connected with a fellow inmate who shook her awake and challenged her to figure out who she was beyond trying to be the best at everything. All it takes is one person reaching out to another and giving the gift of self-worth.

4. You will live a longer and happier life.

We’ve all heard the adage, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Now science is backing that up. When giving is accompanied by selfless feelings, it actually activates the pleasure centers of the brain, releasing endorphins. This chemical reaction, in turn, reduces inflammation, which causes a number of life-threatening diseases from cancer to heart disease. Beyond the action of giving your time, treasures or talents, the process of connecting with others is what gives us more longevity. Positive social interactions, such as “lifting each other up,” actually add years of happy, stress-free living to our lives.

5. You can connect with others to transform the world.

Contributing author, Shirley Osborne summed it up well when she wrote, “It is up to women, then, as we advance in the power structures and economic institutions of the world, no matter how we acquire that advancement, to reach back, reach down, reach out, and embrace other women, pull them in, give them a hand up.” I heartily agree.

The Takeaway:

It’s time for all of us to get connected, reach out and lift up one another. You can start with a kind word, a helping hand or just remembering to connect and acknowledge the importance of the people you meet. Are you willing to start now and use your power to ignite others? Let us connect to create a better world!

This article written by Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, originally appeared on MariaShriver.com


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MariaShriver.com is a community of women and men who believe in the power of inspiration. The power of storytelling. We come from all walks of life, from different socioeconomic situations, but we have this in common: We are writers and readers. We are communicators and connectors. We want to move the ball forward in our own lives. In our homes, in our relationships, in our communities, in our businesses, in our government. We are about elevating each other and we do that by sharing our own personal stories or by sharing the stories of those who have ignited our lives.

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