Dr. Dean Ornish answered:
Altruism, compassion, and forgiveness - opening your heart can be powerful means of healing the isolation that leads to stress, suffering, and illness. In other words, altruism, compassion, and forgiveness are in our own best self-interest, for they help to free us from our limitations and to empower us.
Scientists at the University of Michigan studied 2,754 people in Tecumseh, Michigan, for more than a decade. They interviewed people between 1967 and 1969 and then followed them for the next nine to twelve years. They found that men who did no volunteer work were two and a half times as likely to die during the study as men who volunteered at least once a week. These results were independent of age, gender, or health status when they first entered the study. Similarly, in our study, many of the participants performed volunteer work for various causes. Although they did not do it for this reason, they enjoyed how it made them feel.
A recurrent theme of the book Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease is that lasting peace and happiness are not something we get; we have them already until we disturb them. In that sense, then, acting "selflessly" is the most "selfish" way to behave, since it maintains our sense of inner peace and joy.
Compassion and forgiveness are empowering and healing both for the giver and for the recipient. For example, after Pope John Paul recovered from being shot, he later met with his as sailant and forgave him. But there is a spectrum of altruism - the benefit comes from the purity of feeling, not from the magnitude of the act.Find out more about this book: Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease: The Only System Scie...Altruism, compassion, and forgiveness - opening your heart can be powerful means of healing the isolation that leads to stress, suffering, and illness. In other words, altruism, compassion, and forgiveness are in our own best self-interest, for they... More