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Research shows that you're also helping yourself when you volunteer for others.
It can be easy to see the path to great success as a lonely road. Go-getters typically put in long hours and put their careers first to achieve money and power.
But, as Huffington Post President and Editor-In-Chief Arianna Huffington argues in her latest book, "Thrive," true success is not just about about money and power. It is also about wellbeing. Because if you're not happy, then what does all that work add up to?
A key element of wellbeing is giving, Huffington writes. She cites the Harvard Business School study "Prosocial Spending and Well-Being: Cross-Cultural Evidence for a Psychological Reversal," which found that "donating to charity has a similar relationship to subjective wellbeing as a doubling of household income."
The Harvard team reached this conclusion after analyzing survey data from 136 countries between the years 2006 and 2008. Researchers asked subjects to respond either "yes" or "no" to whether or not they donated to charity in the past month, and then asked them to evaluate the quality of their lives and/or how satisfied they were with their lives on a scale from 0 to 10.
After taking into account the answers for different income levels and national GDP, the researchers found that across the world and regardless of personal wealth, those who gave to others were notably happier — from Canada to Uganda.
Huffington also cites UCLA neuroscientist Matthew D. Lieberman's book "Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect," which uses evolutionary science to explain that humans are built to work together to survive and reproduce.
"To the extent that we can characterize evolution as designing our brains, this is what our brains were wired for: reaching out to and interacting with others. ... These social adaptations are central to making us the most successful species on earth," Lieberman writes.
When we empathize relationships with others, our bodies rewards us with oxytocin, a hormone that lowers cortisol levels, thus lowering stress levels.
For Huffington, this is evidence that giving to others can reduce the stress that can hinder them from progressing in their careers, as well as make them happier with their lives.
"From the depths of our compassion, we can free ourselves of all that limits our imagination about what is possible," she writes. "It's the only way to counteract the excessive greed and narcissism around us."
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