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Here are five ways to feel great and make a difference when faced with challenges and negativity.

Load shedding, water outages, exploding costs of living, fuel hikes, crime. There are so many negative things affecting our families and households at the moment that a feeling of pessimism can easily affect our emotional and mental states.

A phenomenon that actually arose in the 1980s, which is coming into the spotlight in our current trying times, can help to transform these understandably negative mindsets into far healthier, more positive ones.

This is the phenomenon of the “helper’s high”. Here are our five ways to feel great while making a difference.

What exactly is it?

Helper’s High has been identified by psychologists as a “typical state of euphoria reported by those engaged in charitable activity”. In other words, helping others gives us a sense of wellbeing and positivity.

Research has suggested that helping others activates a release of endorphins in our brains, which as we know are the “happy chemicals” that give us those feelings of elation, joy, increased energy, and a lasting feeling of serenity.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, numerous studies since the inception of the concept in 1980 have proven its validity and its impact on our mental health. “It consists of positive emotions following selfless service to others. Greater health and increased longevity are associated with this psychological state. Generosity, selflessness, and an extended sense of self, favor our ability to confront successfully the environmental challenges we face on our planet.”

With so many benefits of doing good – in addition to it being a natural human response to seeing others in need – how can we do our bit of good in the world and experience the benefits of Helper’s High?

Give a little bit of your time

It may not seem like a big thing but giving a bit of your time as a family to help out at a soup kitchen or take part in a park or community clean-up effort, can have a far bigger impact of social and environmental upliftment than you could imagine.

There are so many charities, organisations, and initiatives that need help in addition to funds. From Pinkdrive breast cancer awareness, to adopting a project at the NSPCA, or support an event by the SANParks wildlife rangers to help uplift the people who protect our South African nature heritage

Five tips to encourage kindness in children

Buy a bracelet

Oh yes! Buying and wearing a beautiful, locally-made bracelet is not only a stylish addition to your wardrobe, but it is also helping the aged seniors of Ikamva Labantu, along with refugees and township youth, all of whom earn an income from the bracelets sold. Suitable for males and females, young or old, these bracelets are a wonderful way for a family to show they care.

Not-for-profit organisation, Relate, facilitates the creation of jobs for underprivileged, jobless individuals, giving them a way to earn income by making creative beaded bracelets that are then sold, and the majority of the proceeds directed back to their creators.

“Through our partnerships, Relate ensures that each sale of our bracelet goes towards making a tangible and sustainable impact on worthy causes,” says Dalit Shekel, brand consultant for Relate. “Slipping on a set of simple, yet stylish, bracelets takes on a deeper meaning than we’d normally perceive because of the deep impact that (the knowledge of what) purchasing the bracelets will have on those who need a helping hand.”

The added beauty is that every time you wear these bracelets you feel that Helper’s High again, because the memory of the good you have done triggers the release of oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone, which elevates your mood and literally “makes your heart feel happy”.

Be kind

We’ve all seen the little Instagram and Facebook posters and memes about being kind to others “because you don’t know what they may be going through”. But the concept is very valid.

Science has proven that being kind to stranger, whether it’s a simple smile for the teller at the grocery store and asking how their day is going, or picking up something that an elderly person has dropped and giving it back to them, has immense benefits not just for them but for us too. Encouraging your children to follow your example in doing so will set them up for a lifetime of being kind to others – demonstrating to them that value of doing so lies purely in the altruism of the act.

Boost your mood

Being kind boosts the neurotransmitters in our brains of dopamine and serotonin, making us feel happy. A similar process happens to the person we are being kind to, but from a gratitude perspective and feeling that they matter and are valuable enough for a stranger to engage with them. This is especially powerful if that person is struggling with something and feeling particularly vulnerable. In our rushed and hurried world, we so often treat people as if they are invisible.

Notes of encouragement

As a random act of kindness, have a few notes of general gratitude in your bag or pocket, and if you see a stranger looking a bit down, give them a note. Your Helper’s High will be soaring – and you would’ve made a difference to someone in the world. The additional spin-off is that people around you who see your kind actions are more likely to be kind themselves. Being kind costs nothing, but can mean everything to someone else. Teaching your child to be kind, and showing them by example, can be one of the greatest gifts you give them.