When is the last time you felt useful? I don’t mean just at work either. I’m not talking about nailing something at work that increases profits. I’m talking about real human connection here – doing something that makes you feel like you are making a positive contribution to someone’s life. Maybe that you’re even making a difference in the world in some small way. Real human connection that gives you the warm and fuzzies.
Now we can’t all be Mother Theresa, and trying to solve the issues in the Middle East is far beyond the capabilities of most of us, so I’m not suggesting you should go out and attempt to solve all the world’s problems. But doing something solely for the benefit of someone other than ourselves every once in awhile can only be a positive thing. Knowing what we’re naturally good at can go a long way towards figuring out how to put it to use, and technology like ph360 or the soon to be released ShaeTM can let you know what that is.
For me personally, this means donating plasma on a regular basis. My blood type is AB+, which means that my plasma can go to anyone, in the same way that O- blood can go to anyone. So about once a month I go to the donor centre, roll up my sleeve, chill for half an hour and get a delicious cookie after. Everyone wins! On a more personal note, I bathe my mom’s dog. She’s allergic to pet hair and is fine as long as she isn’t elbow deep in it, but she loves animals and could never give Daisy up. So I go over to her house every once in awhile and have bath time with Daisy. It’s only a small thing, but it means a lot to my mom and it makes me feel useful.
That feeling of usefulness is the key here. Feeling useful has been shown to slow aging, so doing some selfless things will be beneficial to you in the end anyway which makes doing nice things for other people a win-win situation! It is important to feel useful specifically to family and friends as we age, even if our physical abilities decline. This is because it renders us less likely to suffer from chronic illness and results in lower mortality rates.
Not only does a sense of ability and usefulness increase self-esteem and reduce the risk of depression, but there is a broad underlying construct of general social well-being when someone can feel like they have an integral role in a group. It comes down to a sense of belonging. Feeling useful increases the sense of social connectedness which has been related to many effects on positive health, including:
- The engagement of healthy behaviors (ie: avoidance of smoking and a sedentary lifestyle). The more you feel like an important part of a group, like a family or friends, the more likely you are to want to take better care of your health.
- Improved physiological resilience (ie: better muscle tone and ability to heal).
- Emotional stability (ie: positive coping mechanisms and stress management). The more time we spend with people we care about, the more emotionally engaged we are outside our own headspace.
- Longer maintenance of mental acuity (ie: mental engagement, memory and cognitive functions). Spending time with people and feeling useful keeps our brains ticking and you know what they say when it comes to cognitive function – use it or lose it!
Figuring out what’s best for you right now is the key to getting heathy and technology like ph360 or the soon to be released ShaeTM make it effortless. Getting into the positive habit of prioritising time with friends and family now will pay off long term and is a big part of staying healthy. Building those connections and making yourself useful where possible could just help you to live longer.