Three Ways To Celebrate (And Become) #RealLifeHeroes
One of the main focal areas of the United Nations is coordinating humanitarian relief operations around the world. These efforts occur in both natural and man-made disasters, in nations big and small. It makes sense that they began inspiring the world to celebrate International Humanitarian Day in 2009. On August 19, the global campaign is focusing on people who have committed their lives to helping others and are encouraging everyone to take part by using the hashtag: #RealLifeHeroes.
It’s easy to look at a police officer or a firefighter, a doctor or a nurse, and recognize their heroic deeds. But what about the person who helps a stranger in a store? Or shares their umbrella at a bus stop? Being a hero is more than volunteering time or engaging in a specific career, it’s helping others every day in situations big and small.
When we are kind to others, our brain releases three neurochemicals in response. The first chemical released is oxytocin, our brain’s love chemical. This is the hormone that bonds us through love. Oxytocin elevates our trust levels and makes us generous and friendlier. When we engage in random acts of kindness, our brain releases oxytocin, which then triggers the rest of our reward centers.
The second chemical to release is dopamine, our feel-good neurochemical. This hormone induces a pleasant state of short-term euphoria, which helps our brain reinforce the activity we just engaged in. Our brain then releases the third hormone, serotonin, which stabilizes mood and is generally what we attribute happiness with.
This powerful combination leads to sustained levels of overall happiness and life satisfaction. Both are motivating, which then encourages us to continue in not just random acts of kindness, but a life full of purposeful service.
As we see with acts of kindness, gratitude releases dopamine and serotonin. However, unlike with kindness, we only need to focus on our internal gratitude or express external gratitude to trigger these releases. That makes gratitude a powerful source of happiness and mental well-being.
Every time we practice gratitude, we reinforce the neural pathways that release these neurotransmitters. And the more they’re released, the more entrenched these pathways become. These neurochemical releases also work to reduce stress, improve memory, and stabilize our emotions.
The beauty of gratitude is the multitude of ways in which we can express it. We can verbally thank a vet or shake a doctor’s hand. We can write a note or give a nurse a hug. We can even express our gratitude without leaving home by sharing on social media. But we should also take time to reflect on our gratitude internally for the immediate people or things in our lives. Expressing our gratitude ignites not only happiness and satisfaction, but helps us find focus and clarity, which leads to discovering our purpose.
Many people mistake passion for purpose. And while passion is vital in finding our purpose, it isn’t the sole ingredient. On one of our recent podcast episodes, Jim interviewed Jay Shetty, author of Think Like A Monk. Shetty also hosts his own podcast, On Purpose, and often discusses the purpose recipe. Passion + Service = Purpose.
Before we can plug in the formula, we need to start by embracing the sparks of curiosity. Curiosity can lead us to finding things we’re passionate about. But as we all know, passion does not always lead to purpose. We can find our interest waning for a variety of reasons, but stomping out creativity by adhering too stringently to rules or waiting for the perfect moment will likely end in our passion fizzling out.
We need to allow the sparks of creativity to lead us into a path that allows our passion to provide a service to others. There will be a lot of unknowns when we follow this route, but service becomes a channel for our passion. It gives us direction and focus, which translates into our purpose. And when we find our purpose, we become real-life heroes.
Becoming a real-life hero doesn’t require traveling the globe or engaging in monumental feats. By embracing kindness, practicing gratitude, and discovering our purpose, we improve the lives of everyone around us. This ranges from immediate family and friends, but also to those we work with, people we live around, and anyone else who’s lives we unknowingly touch.
International Humanitarian Day is an opportunity for us to do all three. We can perform purposeful acts of kindness, express our gratitude, and consider how to direct our passion into a service. Celebrating all the real-life heroes can help guide and inspire us, improving the world, one real-life hero at a time.