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更新时间:2017-10-30 18:53:50 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Why Doing Good Is Good for the Do-Gooder

The past few months, with a series of disasters seemingly one on top of another, have felt apocalyptic to many, but the bright side to these dark times has been the outpouring of donations and acts of generosity that followed.


From Hurricane Harvey flooding Houston to Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripping through the Caribbean to wildfires burning Northern California, cities and charities have been flooded with donations and volunteers. The outpouring of support is critical for helping affected communities to recover. But acts of generosity benefit the do-gooder, too.

从淹没休斯敦的飓风哈维(Hurricane Harvey),到席卷加勒比地区的飓风艾玛(Hurricanes Irma)和玛丽亚(Maria),乃至蔓延加利福尼亚州北部的山火,在这些灾难发生的地方,城市和慈善机构无不被大量捐赠和志愿者淹没。众多支援对于帮助受灾社区恢复生机至关重要。但是,慷慨的行为也会令行善者自身受益。

“Research suggests that these community social connections are as important for resilience to disaster is as physical material like disaster kits or medical supplies,” explained Ichiro Kawachi, a professor of social epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Voluntarism is good for the health of people who receive social support, but also good for the health of people who offer their help.”

“研究表明,在社区抗灾过程中,社会维系和急救包以及医疗用品等物质资源发挥着同样重要的作用,”哈佛公共卫生学院(Harvard’s School of Public Health)社会流行病学教授河内一郎(Ichiro Kawachi)解释道。“志愿服务能帮助获得社会支持的人恢复健康,也对提供帮助者的健康有益。”

The day after Cristina Topham evacuated her home as a result of the fires in Sonoma, Calif., she and her boyfriend immediately looked for ways to donate and help.

由于加利福尼亚州索诺马的大火,克里斯蒂娜·托潘(Cristina Topham)被迫离家。第二天,她和男友立刻开始寻找捐款和帮助他人的途径。

“I just felt like I had to do something. I love my town and my community, and the reach of the destruction was astonishing from the very beginning,” she said.


Why is the first instinct for many to volunteer and donate after a natural disaster? One reason is that as humans we’ve evolved to survive in groups, not alone. Rallying together makes us feel less alone in the experience, explained the sociologist Christine Carter, a fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.

为什么自然灾害过后,志愿服务和捐赠成了许多人的第一本能?其中一个原因是,随着人类的发展,我们已经演化为群体动物,而不是单独生存。加州大学伯克利分校至善科学中心(Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley)研究员、社会学家克里斯汀·卡特(Christine Carter)解释说,团结在一起会让我们在灾难中感觉不那么孤单。

“When our survival is threatened, we are going to reach out and strengthen our connections with people around us. We show generosity. We show compassion. We show gratitude. These are all emotions that function to connect us with each other,” Dr. Carter said.


Scientific evidence supports the idea that acts of generosity can be beneficial when we volunteer and give back regularly — and not just after a natural disaster. Volunteering is linked to health benefits like lower blood pressure and decreased mortality rates.


Dr. Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist and founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has been studying the effects of positive emotions, such as compassion and kindness, on the brain since the 1990s. He said the brain behaves differently during an act of generosity than it does during a hedonistic activity.

自1990年代以来,位于麦迪逊的威斯康星大学健康心理中心(Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin)的创始人、神经科学家理查德·戴维森(Richard Davidson)博士一直在研究同情和善意等积极情绪对大脑的影响。他表示,在进行慷慨的活动时,大脑的表现与进行享乐活动时是不一样的。

“When we do things for ourselves, those experiences of positive emotions are more fleeting. They are dependent on external circumstances,” he said. “When we engage in acts of generosity, those experiences of positive emotion may be more enduring and outlast the specific episode in which we are engaged.”


Helping others also gives us a sense of purpose. Dr. Linda Fried co-founded Experience Corps, a program that engages retirees as literacy tutors, after she discovered a strong association between a sense of purpose and well-being throughout life. Older adults who volunteered to help children with reading and writing tended to experience less memory loss and maintain greater physical mobility, one study suggested.

帮助他人也带给我们一种目的感。琳达·弗赖德(Linda Fried)博士发现,目标感和人生幸福之间存在强烈的联系,于是她与他人合作,创建了“体验团”(Experience Corps),招募退休人员教人识字。一项研究表明,志愿帮助孩子阅读和写作有助于老年人缓解健忘,并且更好地保持身体灵活。

Giving back is a fundamental teaching of many religions. Jesus had the Golden Rule. Buddha said in order to brighten one’s own path, one must light the path of others.


During a trip to India in 2016, I experienced firsthand how the benefits of doing good are well established in Indian society. I paid a visit to a Vedic astrologer because I was anxious about an uncertain future, my own personal crisis, and received a list of prescriptions to help others to get through it. The first task was to buy a black-and-white checkered blanket, then visit a local leper colony and donate it to the first person I saw. My next task was to buy a six-pound bag of lentils, circle it around my head, chant a Sanskrit mantra and give it to a homeless person.


Certainly, many Westerners would roll their eyes at these unconventional “prescriptions,” but they were familiar to my Indian friends, who believe they hold real power.


Later, to better understand the significance of the rituals, I reached out to Dr. Deepak Chopra, author of “You Are the Universe.” He said the philosophical underpinnings in India come from the Vedas and Buddhist traditions, where “all human suffering is a result of the hallucination of the separate self.”

后来,为了更好地了解这些仪式的意义,我联系了《你是宇宙》(You Are the Universe)一书的作者迪帕克·乔普拉(Deepak Chopra)博士。他说,印度的哲学基础来自《吠陀》和佛教传统,主张“一切人类痛苦都是独立个体幻觉的产物”。

Dr. Chopra explained: “The moment you identify yourself as separate from other beings, or other people, or separate from life in general then you will suffer. And it all begins with initial anxiety because when you’re disconnected from people and life, you feel fear, and that creates the beginning of suffering.”


Would Western doctors ever prescribe acts of generosity? Dr. John Rowe, a professor of health policy and aging at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, doesn’t rule it out.

西方医生是否会把慷慨行为作为自己的处方呢?哥伦比亚大学梅尔曼公共卫生学院(Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health)的健康策略与衰老研究教授约翰·罗(John Rowe)博士不排除这种做法。

“We have sufficient scientific information to justify a very significant public health initiative,” he said. “If there were a retiree in my office I would ask them, ‘Do you smoke? Do you exercise? What is your diet like?’ I should also be asking them if they volunteer.”