Did you know one of the easiest ways to feel happy is by helping others?
Helping others releases dopamine in the brain which makes us feel good. Cognitive neuroscientist Jordan Grafman from the National Institutes of Health found “brain structures that are activated when you get a reward are the same ones that are activated when you give. In fact, they’re activated more when you give.”
Mentors experience this first hand. Cathy Goddard who founded Lighthouse Mentor Network in Whistler, BC feels extremely happy: “[Mentoring] pulls on my best qualities, stretches me, uses my organizational skills, and allows me to bring people together to make a huge difference in both professional and personal lives. [It] has been fulfilling beyond my dreams.”
The Province of British Columbia also understands the importance of mentorship; it surveyed 35,000 individuals from the small business community and found they wanted easier access to mentorship in BC. In November 2013 the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training funded the production of Mentorship BC, an online resource giving easy access to mentorship programs available in BC.
So why do people mentor? In addition to a variety of positive paybacks such as giving back to the community, helping the local economy, and increasing the chance of a mentee’s success, here are three surprising benefits of being a mentor:
1. Mentorship is Good for Your Health
Giving to others can improve your health. A study by Rachel Piferi from Johns Hopkins University and Kathleen Lawler from the University of Tennessee found that those who gave social support to others had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.
Giving also decreases levels of stress. Michael Poulin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo, explains when you focus your attention on someone else’s wellbeing, it actually reduces your own stress levels. This then reduces the negative toll that stress can have on health.
2. Giving Back Resets Your Happiness Set Point
According to research, we all have a set baseline level of happiness that remains consistent during our lives. However, according to the largest study of happiness to date, giving back can permanently change our happiness set point, because we feel we have a greater sense of purpose in life.
Joanne BouSaleh, co-owner of Hunter & Hare consignment boutique in Gastown, Vancouver and copywriting for the web instructor at Langara College agrees: “Every person is shaped and shifted into who they are based on several life experiences and when they do realize their potential (through mentorship), it’s always rewarding to see.”
3. Mentoring Increases Your Chance of Success
Adam Grant, New York Times Best Selling author of Give and Take, believes helping others increases your chance of success because when you give, you’re more likely to get back. According to the Greater Good Science Center at the University of Berkley, “Several studies, including work by sociologists Brent Simpson and Robb Willer, have suggested that when you give to others, your generosity is likely to be rewarded by others down the line—sometimes by the person you gave to, sometimes by someone else.”