Ever wondered if you benefit when you encourage others? Surprisingly, scientists say cheering others on or helping them will actually benefit you. #encouragment #lifelonglearner #selfcare #selfcaresunday #selfcarehacks #tutor #mentor #learning #serotonin #happinesstrifecta

Ever wondered if you benefit when you encourage others? Surprisingly, scientists say cheering others on or helping them will actually benefit you.

Every time we encourage others, we benefit ourselves. This month we’ll explore the mental, academic, physical, and spiritual self-care benefits of encouraging those around us.

Ever wondered if you benefit when you encourage others? Surprisingly, scientists say cheering others on or helping them will actually benefit you. #encouragment #lifelonglearner #selfcare #selfcaresunday #selfcarehacks #tutor #mentor #learning #serotonin #happinesstrifecta

How Can Cheering Someone Else Count as Academic Self-Care?

“It looks like the only class available for me this summer will be one on cooperative learning,” I said to Pedro.

“Cooperative learning?” he asked. “Is that where the teacher puts you in groups and one person does all the work?”

“It’s not supposed to be,” I said with a laugh. “I’m curious about the class. I’ve read students learn more if they actively teach each other, but I have no idea how to do it right, so it doesn’t turn into what you described.”

I did worry about the class, though. After all, I fall into the category of the A-student who does all the work. What if the instructor put us in cooperative learning groups and no one else worked?

By the end of the first hour of class, my fears disappeared. Our instructor used cooperative learning groups to help us learn about cooperative learning. We each had distinct roles to play for every activity, and we had to take turns in the different roles.

Of course, I didn’t think I’d learn much from playing the cheerleader role. I don’t have a natural rah-rah kind of personality. And if a person takes time to encourage others, how can they actually learn anything?

Much to my surprise, I discovered I remembered just as much from the sessions where I cheered others on as the sessions where I lead out or acted as secretary. Thirty years later, scientists and researchers understand the phenomenon I experienced during my cooperative learning class.

What Happens to Your Brain When You Encourage Others?

In recent years, new methods of using a magnetic resonance image (MRI) allows us to see what happens to our brains when we perform acts of altruism. Using a functional MRI (fMRI) reveals metabolic (blood flow activity) to different parts of the brain during different activities. Scientists and psychologists use fMRIs to discover which part of the human brain becomes active during acts of altruism. Researchers have used this technology to discover what happens to our bodies when we help others through acts of altruism.

When we encourage others, we perform an act of altruism—no one makes us offer encouragement and we do it because we know it will help someone. If we encourage others, we release three neurochemicals known as the happiness trifecta. In a 2014 article in Psychology Today https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/vitality/201404/the-neuroscience-giving, Eva Ritvo M.D. explains to readers how giving releases the happiness trifecta. “Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin make up the Happiness Trifecta. Any activity that increases the production of these neurochemicals will cause a boost in mood.”

While an improved mood sounds great, if we break down those three neurochemicals, we discover they enhance more than just mood. Serotonin, for example enhances memory and learning. For a complete discussion on a scientific study done on mice to determine how it all works, you can visit this site https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(18)30338-6. Dopamine improves our motivation, and oxytocin builds trust.

Cooperative learning has the potential to help us learn more, remember it longer, and build relationships.

Ways to Learn Cooperatively Outside the Classroom

We don’t have to sit inside a building to reap the benefits of cooperative learning and increased serotonin levels from when we encourage others. These hacks will help you discover ways to learn with and encourage others to increase your own ability to learn.

1. Online Classes

I’m taking an online class from Coursera on writing for children. Part of the coursework includes reading a commenting on the short stories written by other participants. When I make encouraging comments on their stories, I enhance my memory and understanding of the lesson.

Ever wondered if you benefit when you encourage others? Surprisingly, scientists say cheering others on or helping them will actually benefit you. #encouragment #lifelonglearner #selfcare #selfcaresunday #selfcarehacks #tutor #mentor #learning #serotonin #happinesstrifecta

I have a critical bent, so consciously looking for positive things to say helps me in two ways. It improves my own learning and it helps me rewrite negative habits I’ve fallen into over the years.

2. Learn a New Skill in a Group Setting

Want to learn how to knit, computer code, use WordPress, or bake bread? Find a class where you can learn with other people and make a conscious effort to encourage others in your class. Even better if you learn with a friend or two!

3. Book Clubs

Join a book club (or start one yourself). Talking about a book will help you understand it. And if you encourage others for their ideas and points of view, you’ll learn even more!

4. Offer to Tutor Someone

I discovered four years ago the power of learning when I encourage others. How? I started teaching math to middle and high-school students who lagged behind their peers. Most of the kids started out doing second or third-grade math. Stuff I had forgotten decades ago (or never learned in the first place).

As I worked with the kids individually and cheered them on, I discovered I had started to retain the information, too. We discovered the answers together and the process helped me as well as them.

Offer to tutor someone in a subject you find difficult to retain. As long as you know just a little bit more than your tutee (or know where to find answers), you’ll discover that you will learn as you encourage others.

We Need to Take Care of Ourselves Academically

In order to keep our brains flexible and functioning at optimum capacity, we need to become lifelong learners. Academic self-care plays an important role in keeping us healthy and whole. Have you discovered ways to pair learning with encouraging others? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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  1. A while back, I wrote a post about how altruism benefits the giver as well as the receiver and every time I have put it into practice, I have found it to be very true. There have been times when I have felt so awfully miserable and couldn’t find a way out of it that I would simply wrap up random small gifts for a few friends and hand deliver them…just because. And that act alone raised my spirits just as much as it did the receiver’s. Such a great post and message, Anita! I will find that old post and link it!


  2. I feel I usually learn best alone, but I have been in group settings where we encouraged each other and thereby brought each other along a little further than we would have been on our own. And I tend to have a critical bent, too, so I need to actively look for good rather than nitpicking.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…How to Quiet Your SoulMy Profile

  3. Hi Anita. Great post, as usual. I’ve always worked at being a life-long learner and encouraged my children and co-workers to do the same. It is rewarding, keeps the brain sharp, and interests ever-expanding.

  4. Anita … this is fascinating … and I’ve found it to be repeatedly true as I’ve come ‘out of the dark’ this past year. Reaching out to others blesses not only them, but enlivens us and gives us purpose.

    And there’s a million ways to do this!

    I’ve never heard of academic self-care, but that makes sense, too. I’m off to learn more about it. Thank you for expanding my borders, friend!
    Linda Stoll recently posted…2021’s Best Books . . . So FarMy Profile

  5. I’m a believer in being a life-long learner as well – there’s way too many interesting things to discover to ever be bored!

    As for being a cheerleader for others, the throught struck me – you reap what you sow. If I want encouragement (who doesn’t?) then I need to be an encourager.
    Jerralea Winn Miller recently posted…A Symphony of PrayerMy Profile

  6. I used to use cooperative learning when I was a high school teacher. You are right – it takes practice and discipline to do it correctly so that one student does not wind up doing all the work. I find that I get a lot of practice using encouragement from commenting on others’ blogs. I like to leave an encouraging comment. Thanks for the encouragement to be a life-long learner!
    Laurie recently posted…Guilt, Shame, And A Little Grass SkirtMy Profile

  7. Anita, I love all the ways you encourage us to continue learning. I sometimes used cooperative learning in my elementary classroom . . . MANY years ago. I love that you learned to embrace each role in your group. As someone who has the spiritual gift of encouragement, I really enjoyed this post. 🙂

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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