Confirmed: Helping others prolongs your life

Helping other
Photo: FOMAA
Helping other
Photo: FOMAA

Trust women! They are the same everywhere over matters of the heart. Popular Pastor TD Jakes is teaching how life runs on the cycle of give and take, and says to men, “You don’t leave a woman who feeds you, provides and cares for you at home, and go out….” He pauses there; and the thousands of the women in the mega church yell in unison, “break it down!”

This is a continuation of last week’s piece on long life lessons from centenarians. Among the lessons is the tested truth (remember there is false truth and fake news these days) that helping others prolongs life.

A wider dimension of it is what TD Jakes tried to explain.

“Break it down?” Yes, we will do that presently.

His topic was, “Feed what feeds you.” Truly, if we look around carefully, that is cycle the world operates. You expend your efforts, you are rewarded with a salary or some kind of reward what enables you to continue to work; you love, you get love back; you sow, you reap; even trees draw on water, soil nutrients and carbon dioxide to live, and they must bear fruits.

On careful examination of life, we notice that, when this cycle of give and take is broken, there is a disruption or something dies – naturally. Nothing kills love faster.

Why Jesus cursed the fig tree

For a long time a lived with the difficulty of understanding why Jesus cursed a fig tree because it bore no fruits. Now, based on this law of reciprocity, I do with the rhetorical question: “of what use is a fig or apple tree that does not bear fruits.” By feeding on nature without bearing fruits, the fig tree broke a natural circle.

According to a Bible scholar, F.F. Bruce, “When the fig leaves appear about the end of March, they are accompanied by a crop of small knobs, called taqsh by the Arabs, a sort of fore-runner of the real figs. These taqsh are eaten by peasants and others when hungry. They drop off before the real fig is formed. But if the leaves appear unaccompanied by taqsh, there will be no figs that year.

So it was evident to our Lord, when He turned aside to see if there were any of these taqsh on the fig-tree to assuage His hunger for the time being, that the absence of the taqsh meant that there would be no figs when the time of figs came. For all its fair foliage, it was a fruitless and a hopeless tree.”

Most religions preach giving. The practice that sounds like an oxymoron, is a sure bet to prosperity. “Give and it shall be given unto you…” the Bible says. In this case, the giver at the other end (of giving) is not the taker. It is Baba God himself; and He does it in many surprising ways.

Helping Others Will Come Back to You

Away from religion, giving or helping others, as the study of the three centenarians, (Clifford Crozier, born in 1915; Emilia Tereza Harper, born in 1913; and John Millington Denerley, born in 1914) showed, prolongs the life of the giver.

In the report used last week: Harper spoke of the importance of being kind and helping those around you. This is a life lesson worth learning, as doing good deeds helps others in need while providing a natural mood boost for you.

Volunteering, for instance, can lower your risk of depression and anxiety and even boost your psychological well-being. Not only does it keep you active and on your feet, but there’s a definite social aspect as well, both of which contribute to happiness and longevity.

Volunteering to help others also gives you a sense of purpose and can even lead to a “helper’s high,” which may occur because doing good releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin in your body while lowering levels of stress hormones like cortisol.

Personality traits can also affect your longevity, which may also be playing a role in the centenarians interviewed.  Having a sense of purpose and staying productive, for instance, have been shown to promote longevity in The Longevity Project, a Stanford study spanning 80 years.

Conscientiousness, specifically, was identified as a marker for longevity. The reason for this, the researchers believe, is because conscientious behavior influences other behaviors.

For example, conscientious people tend to make healthier choices, such as avoiding smoking and choosing work they enjoy and life partners they get along with — factors that can have a significant impact on their stress level and general contentment. Conscientious people also tend to be more productive, even past conventional retirement age, and tend to regard their work as having purpose.

The Longevity Project dismisses the idea that hard work will kill you early. On the contrary, those who stay productive and work hard all their lives actually tend to be happier, healthier and more social compared to those who don’t work as hard.

Co-author and psychologist Howard S. Friedman, Ph.D., of the University of California, said in an interview with the American Psychological Association (APA)

” … [O]ur studies suggest that it is a society with more conscientious and goal-oriented citizens, well-integrated into their communities, that is likely to be important to health and long life. These changes involve slow, step-by-step alterations that unfold across many years. But so does health. For example, connecting with and helping others is more important than obsessing over a rigorous exercise programme.”

Why Helping Others Will Change Your Life

Indeed, a new research has confirmed that people who help others are likely to live longer. That came from a study of grandparents and their grandchildren.

Researchers followed more than 500 people aged 70 to 103-years-old.

Those that gave occasional childcare to their grandchildren — or helped out their own children — tended to live longer.

Another analysis showed that the beneficial effects extended to childless older couples who provided emotional support to others.

Professor Ralph Hertwig, a senior author of the study, cautioned that:

“…helping shouldn’t be misunderstood as a panacea for a longer life.

A moderate level of care-giving involvement does seem to have positive effects on health.

But previous studies have shown that more intense involvement causes stress, which has negative effects on physical and mental health.”

Ms Sonja Hilbrand, the study’s first author, said:

“It seems plausible that the development of parents’ and grandparents’ prosocial behavior toward their kin left its imprint on the human body in terms of a neural and hormonal system that subsequently laid the foundation for the evolution of cooperation and altruistic behavior towards non-kin.”

The study was published in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior.


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