The Science of Service

The Science of Service

If you subscribe to our newsletter, you likely read Academy member Stephen Anderson’s recent article about our day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Members and staff joined Meals on Wheels to help serve up a nice meal to those who need it. It is our custom to celebrate this holiday with an act of service, a fitting tribute to the work of the late Dr. King. 

Along with several other service projects we do throughout the year-from community clean-ups to food drives and more-we believe in the power of giving of ourselves, in part, to foster our own well-being.

Helping others promotes a heightened sense of social connection in one’s community. It helps us to perceive the world around us as kinder and more compassionate. It brings us together in a way that is purposeful. Surprisingly, it matters little if the recipient of such an act of service acknowledges or even witnesses the gift. The benefits are still significant.

To understand why that is, we turned to science. Studies have shown that acts of service can lower one’s blood pressure and reduce depression and anxiety. That do-good feeling of giving back can release endorphins, a hormone that relieves pain, reduces stress, and enhances one’s sense of well-being. It turns out, acts of kindness aren’t as selfless as they might appear, and we’re ok with that.

Here at the Academy, as a rule, we don’t often tell others what to do. Rather, we role model and hope to inspire intrinsic change. Likewise, when we initiate a kind act towards others, and when we are the recipient, it stirs something in us that makes us want to do more, to give of ourselves in new ways. It doesn’t take much to imagine where this ripple effect might lead. Imagine a world where we are all touched by the desire to serve in meaningful ways. That was Dr. King’s dream, and we carry it with us.

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