Do you know about the ten keys to wellbeing? Our wellbeing consultant, Jen Wood, first shares her thoughts on altruism and how it can be helpful for us.

"I know many people have taken the opportunity during lockdown to study online. I am one of these people, and I’m studying Positive Psychology and Wellbeing. As we navigate the easing of lockdown, I want to share the ten keys to wellbeing with you, with some suggestions about how you can integrate these into your life.

According to research done at the University of Berkeley in California, developing these behaviours will increase health, happiness and build positive connection with others. They list the pillars as altruism, awe, bridging differences, compassion, diversity, empathy, forgiveness, gratitude and happiness.

First let’s look at altruism. What is it? Why should we practice it and how do we cultivate it?

The Cambridge dictionary defines altruism as "Willingness to do things that bring advantages to others, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself". The word comes from Latin alteri, meaning ‘other people’ or ‘somebody else’. It’s the opposite of egoism.

There is something about helping our friends, family and neighbours that has felt like one of the silver linings of lockdown for me. It appears this capacity we humans have is one of the reasons our species survived.

Darwin called it ‘benevolence’ and claimed it was an integral part of our social instinct. More recent research shows that when we behave altruistically, we stimulate the same part of the brain that is activated when we eat chocolate or some other highly pleasurable behaviour. We have the capacity to go either way – altruistic or selfish – so the challenge is to cultivate our common humanity.

So why is altruism helpful for us?

  • It’s good for our health
  • It makes us happy
  • It can make us wealthier
  • It protects us against addictions
  • It helps us to connect with others
  • It’s contagious

How can we increase it? Here are some suggestions.

  • Connect deeply with others – listening actively and being present for them.
  • Focus on similarities in others rather than differences.
  • Build empathy, understanding and the ability to relate to how other people feel.
  • Practise gratitude.
  • Model acts of kindness to others. ‘Acting as if’ is a great step towards developing an attribute like altruism.
  • Be humble.
  • Care for those who are suffering.

How could you build your altruism today?"

(Source: Greater Good Science Centre, UC Berkeley)

Jen Wood is an emotional wellbeing coach, therapist and mindfulness teacher with 20 years’ experience. She is also our wellbeing consultant at The Yard. Jen is offering weekly bite-sized videos sharing mindfulness techniques and wellbeing tools for our members. For more information about Jen, visit