The many facets of altruism

February 14, 2023by Editorial Team
Who is an altruist?

Everyone is not an altruist; however that does not disempower anybody from becoming one. It is about our inner conditioning and sincere intent behind the actions we do. Try and get into the mode; it is not too tall a task. Ultimately it is 'human calling'.

Altruism and its roots

Altruism is an unselfish act that results in a higher quality of life both materially and spiritually. It involves taking actions to help others. Even a simple act of giving one’s lunch to a hungry homeless child, at the cost of remaining hungry is considered an altruistic act. Research suggests that the thought of being able to have a human connection makes one behave more altruistically. Simultaneously, the thought of not belonging to a group acts as a barrier to altruism, even developing a feeling of hostility.

Psychologists have long debated that some people are just born with a natural tendency to help others while some people may be influenced by genetics. While all altruistic acts have a strong social intent, not all social behaviours are completely altruistic. We might help others for a variety of reasons such as guilt, obligation, and duty or even for rewards. People are more likely to help those who are blood relatives because it will increase the odds of gene transmission to future generations, thus ensuring the continuation of shared genes. The more closely the individuals are related, the more likely they are to help each other.

Altruism and you

An act of altruism makes our life exciting and beneficial in many ways. Helping others makes us feel good. The act promotes physiological changes in the brain that are linked with happiness. It improves our support networks and encourages us to be more active. This improves our self- esteem. It creates a sense of belonging and reduces our sense of loneliness. We can make new friends and connect with our community. Altruism also helps us develop a healthy perspective on circumstances. Helping individuals, who are less fortunate than ourselves, changes our outlook and makes us feel more positive. Acts of altruism makes the world a happier one, contributing to a more positive community. In fact, the more we do for others, the more we do for ourselves. An act of goodness will last long after the act itself, for both the doer and the receiver.

People with altruistic mindset are able to empathize with others, and are able to understand others needs and are better equipped to help them. They are also compassionate, which motivates them to help others, even when it is difficult. Studies have found that altruists tend to have stronger social connections and a sense of purpose in life. Cultivating an altruistic mindset can be beneficial not only for individuals but also for society as a whole. Altruistic behaviour can lead to greater social cohesion and cooperation, which can help to address social malaise such as poverty and inequality.


Can you become an altruist?

Some argue that altruism is a fundamental human trait, while others argue that it is a learned behaviour. Abigail Marsh, a professor of Psychology at Georgetown University, points out that altruistic people have a larger amygdala than the average. She also states that altruists exhibited a common trait, humility. Another theory suggests that children who are exposed to an altruistic environment are more likely to develop an altruistic mindset. An altruistic mindset can inspire others to do the same, creating a positive feedback loop of kindness and generosity. An altruist act transforms us, making us happier, more fulfilled and healthier in mind and body.


About the authors

The article has been contributed by the following students from Don Bosco Senior Secondary School, Vaduthala: A.R.Remya Das and Ryan Lijoe Chittissery.

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