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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Transformation Tuesday- Doing Good is Good for You

"You can't help someone up a hill without getting closer to the top yourself." -General H Norman Schwarzkopf Jr

I recently read two on-line articles that lay out the case that helping others also helps us.  It seems doing good is good for our health. It helps us to live healthier and happier lives.

An article in Health Progress in July of 2009 looked at a variety of altruistic activities including:

  • Participation in informal helping networks
  • Self-help groups
  • Working in a helping profession
  • Volunteering
  • Engaging in philanthropy (spending your money) to help others
Informal Networks/Self Help Groups

Research and psychologist Frank Riessman observed that in self-help groups that helping others was regarded as essential to the process of helping oneself.  He thought the act of helping someone else healed the helper more than the person they were helping.  The helper model is the basis of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous.  

Research from Brown University medical school found that AA members that helped other members were less likely to re-lapse.  The success rate in avoiding alcohol was 40% for those that provided help and 22% for those that did not help others.

The benefits were similar for Multiple Sclerosis patients. A group of MS patients was trained to provide compassionate support by placing monthly supportive phone calls lasting 15 minutes per month to other MS patients. Over the course of the two year study the MS helpers showed large improvements in self-confidence, self-esteem, depression and role functioning.  Helping others gave them protections against depression and anxiety. The researchers surmised that helping others helped the MS patients get away from a pattern of thinking just about themselves.  This improved the quality of their life and added personal meaning.

Similar results have been seen in patients with AIDS, cancer, cardiac disease and chronic pain. Those suffering from chronic pain that provided help to others decreased pain intensity, levels of disability and depression.

I think this could benefit us in the CMT community.  I volunteered for several years at a career network helping job seekers with interview skills and resumes. I know I felt like I got more benefit from the experience than those I helped.

Helping Professions
Some occupations such as teacher, clergy, psychology and medicine give people a chance to help others on the job. A study of 27,000 workers in helping professions showed they had higher job satisfaction with their work and greater overall happiness. Volunteers get a similar benefit.

According to a study of volunteers in update New York, those that volunteered at least once a week live longer and had better physical function.

Studies with the elderly volunteering 100 hours in a year were 30 percent less likely to experience limitations in physical functioning compared to those that did not volunteer. Other studies have shown a 25 percent decrease in mortality rate for older adults that volunteer sometimes, 30 percent for frequent volunteers.

There are benefits for adolescents as well. Volunteer work in this age group enhances social competence and self-esteem. protects against anti-social behavior and substance abuse and lowers teen pregnancies and academic failures.

Giving money to others is a form of doing good. A research project gave 19 subjects money and a list of cause they could give to.  The brains of the subjects were examined by MRI.  The MRI showed that making a donation activated the brain's reward center responsible for dopamine-medicated euphoria. When the subjects did good, it lit up the pleasure center of their brains.  They also found that just thinking about giving had a positive physiological impact.

A Harvard study found subjects watching a film about Mother Teresa's work in India showed significant antibody production over subjects watching a neutral film.

So what is going on here? Negative emotions and self-centered though have a negative effect on health. Replace that by doing good and you have a powerful positive effect.

Have you ever done something good for someone and got a rush of good feeling?  Research by Allan Luks first describes the "helpers high"; a pleasurable and euphoric emotional sensation of energy and warmth.  He surveyed volunteers from around the country. Those surveyed reported their health improved when they started to volunteer.

Other benefits found include:
  • Stress reduction- giving back was found to lower blood pressure
  • More happiness at work-those that volunteer are more likely to be engaged and less likely to leave their jobs.
  • Better mental health- produces helper high, which makes us feel good. Also generates feelings of  satisfaction and gratitude. Volunteering is linked to lower rates of depression.
  • Happiness- long term happiness is promoted by volunteer work. It helps to improve health and life satisfactions.
There are lots of benefits to volunteering. I can testify to the benefits in my own life as a over 25 year volunteer as a member of the National Ski Patrol. We provide first aid to injured skiers and help out skiers on the hill. I have felt the rush of good feelings after helping someone that has been hurt.  I got my start as a professional trainer when I learned to deliver first aid training for this organization. I have made life long friends from being in this group.

My work to raise awareness of CMT has given me a purpose to my life and helped me to have something good come from having CMT.

I hope everyone will consider doing good....because it is good for you!

Chris Wodke
Founder & Manager Team CMT

Chris is a triathlete and long distance runner. She is a three time participant of the Boston Marathon.  In 2012 she finished 2nd at Boston in the Mobility Impaired Division. She was on the course in 2013 when the bombs exploded.

She has appeared three times at the Paratriathlon National Triathlon Sprint Championship. She was the 2012 and 2014 National Champion Paratriathlon Open Division Champion.

In 2014 she was the PC Open Champion at the Duathlon National Championship. She has qualified to represent Team USA at the Aquathon ITU World Championship in Chicago in 2015 and 2016

 In 2014 she represented  the U.S. as a paratriathlete at the Pan-American Triathlon Championship in Dallas, Texas.

She travels around the country raising awareness of CMT.

She is the author of the book, “Running for My Life” that details her experience as a CMT affected athlete.

You may visit her author page at:

Team CMT is a group of athletes and supporters working to raise awareness and to find a cure for CMT. We have 176 members in 31 states. We also have members in Australia, England,Scotland, Canada, Vietnam, Turkey, Finland, Scotland, France and Iran. If you wish to join us visit our web site; or

CMT or Charcot-Marie-Tooth is the most commonly inherited peripheral neuropathy. It affects over 155,000 Americans (as many as MS).  It is a disease of the nerves that control the muscles. It is slowly progressive, causing loss of normal function and or sensation in the lower legs/feet and arms/hands.

Symptoms include; muscle wasting in the lower legs and feet leading to foot drop, poor balance and gait problems Atrophy in the hands causes difficulty with manual dexterity.

Structural foot deformities such as high arches and hammer toes are common.

Poor tolerance for cool or cold temperatures and many people have chronically cold hands and feet.

Additional symptoms may include fatigue, sleep apnea, breathing difficulties and hearing loss.

Additional Link
Follow CMT affected Paratriathlete Timmy Dixon

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