Why do I rarely feel happy anymore

Why helping makes us happy

Be it time together, a personal gift or voluntary support - helping and giving makes people happy, research and committed people agree on this. But why is that and can this positive feeling also arise from a distance?

Man cannot do well alone in the long run. We have understood ourselves as community beings since the beginning of human history. The importance of interpersonal relationships for a full and healthy life has recently been proven by research results such as the Grant and Glueck study of Havard University. The long-term study followed more than 700 people over 75 years and explored how psyche and health are connected and which factors contribute to a life that is perceived as happy. Interpersonal relationships were given the highest value by nearly every participant at the end of the study.

“In positive psychology, humanity is one of six virtues, which include the strengths of character, the ability to relate, friendliness and social competence. All positive interpersonal interactions strengthen our humanity, the aforementioned character strengths and increase our sense of happiness, ”explains Evelyn Wenzel, who in her job as a coach deals a lot with personality development and psychology.

What prevents potential helpers

The need to feel connected to other people, to support them in difficult phases, is deeply anchored in our being. In today's fast-paced society, however, we rarely find the time to satisfy this concern.

"In front of me there are often people in the advisory service who are highly motivated to do voluntary work, but communicate quite openly that they can only spend a few hours a month," says Christiane Kalweit, location coordinator of the Good deed foundation in Hamburg. But she can reassure those people quickly because there are many projects that do not require weekly time. “The offers that deal with older people are particularly popular - from visiting sponsors to looking after people with dementia. The high demand naturally also reflects the aging of society. In the senior sector, in addition to working with children and young people, we have the largest number and variety of projects, ”explains Kalweit.

Others do not lack time or desire, they are tormented by the fear of too great an emotional obligation. “Many people have no experience in volunteering, and that is not a requirement. There is a central question that I ask everyone who comes to us for information: What can you imagine and where are your limits? ”Says Kalweit. In most cases, a suitable project could be found with which the volunteers could slowly approach the voluntary work and their personal limits.

Another group channels their willingness to help in the purely financial support of aid organizations. According to surveys by the German Donation Council, this group is getting smaller and smaller, but still moving billions - 5.3 between January and December 2018 to be precise. In the course of the evaluation of the annual Balance of helping said Daniela Geue, managing director of the German Donation Council e. V .: “Fewer and fewer people donate. But those who donate donate more and more! ”The largest share would go to humanitarian institutions.

Can luck succeed on both sides at a distance?

Many may doubt that financial commitment at a distance can trigger solidarity and appreciation. But this is exactly what Sabine Janzen has experienced for a number of years. The mother of two has two sponsorships at the children's aid organization World Vision Taken in Ethiopia. Although she has already visited one of her sponsored children in Africa, most of the communication takes place over a distance of several thousand kilometers. Janzen cannot find a less empowering feeling: “It is so indescribably beautiful to be so lovingly and closely connected with several families around the world - without a family relationship. Today I know: distances are of no importance. To be close is a matter of the heart! "

And brain research is right - in parts. Some scientific studies, such as the Californian Psychological Anticipation Study, confirm this Loma Linda Universitythat several happiness hormones are released in the giver himself and the proportion of stress hormones decreases. The main factors are dopamine, endorphin, serotonin and oxytocin. Dopamine is particularly responsible for the feeling of anticipation, serotonin is released when we receive recognition and appreciation and the bonding hormone oxytocin when we feel connected and togetherness. Some of these happiness hormones, such as dopamine, are produced regardless of whether we receive direct feedback or not.

“While I experience an immediate effect on different sensory levels when I actively act - I see joy, I feel the embrace, I hear thanks, I smell the surroundings - engagement at a distance appeals to fewer senses. However, the joy of having achieved something good and making the world a little better through good deeds is still joy and has a positive effect on the committed person, ”explains Evelyn Wenzel.

"It doesn't always have to be a lot"

Distance support is not an option for all people who want to get involved. For Mareile Fritzsche, for example, direct contact is simply part of the process. The Hamburg photo editor remembers: “All my life I wanted to give other people warmth and to help them in difficult situations. When I saw the shocking images from Syria and the stream of refugees, it was clear to me that I had to get involved. ”Fritzsche took a professional break and was involved in various refugee projects in the Hanseatic city. And yet there were seldom personal encounters with the people for whom she had actually come. “No question about it, the group of volunteers was great, but I was simply interested in the refugees, their stories and so much warmth,” says Fritzsche. Her desire for closeness took shape one afternoon when she saw an instant familiarity in an Afghan woman's gaze. Over time, despite cultural and linguistic barriers, she managed to establish a close relationship with the entire family. “Our relationship is shaped by mental and physical closeness. I have a particularly close relationship with my now eight-year-old daughter. She is the child in my life that I have never looked for. "

Christiane Kalweit sums up her direct help in a similarly positive way: “By caring for my aunt, I saw how lonely many old people are and how much help they need when in doubt. After her death, I wanted to continue to volunteer my time. That gave me a lot back. My commitment has shown me that you can always do something and it doesn't always have to be a lot.