By Kim Barthel, Occupational Therapist

Did you know that you can make your brain work better and become healthier by helping others?  When you experience anxiety, depression or stress, helping others not only makes you feel good, but also changes the structure of your DNA. DNA is the code within your cells that makes you who you are and unique from everybody else. Every time a cell divides and makes a new cell (which is happening all day long) the DNA is exposed to all the chemicals inside your body.  When the replicating strands of DNA are chronically exposed to stress and anxiety chemicals, the DNA gets worn down.  This wear and tear makes it harder for you to cope with life’s challenges and increases your body’s potential to develop disease.  When you engage in helping, however, feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin float around in your bloodstream. These chemicals turn on all the parts of your DNA that help you to become resilient, healthier and better able to cope with stress.  Although it might seem like doing nice things for others is only altruistic, ultimately we are also helping ourselves greatly in the process.