The Unusual Health and Psychological Benefits of Being a Mentor
By Aisha Tejani, Mentorship BC Coordinator
Ask successful entrepreneurs why they mentor, and they will commonly tell you that they want to give back to the community, or make a positive difference in the lives of others. However they may not realize that mentoring causes a variety of other positive side effects that can drastically impact their lives.
Here are 5 unusual health and psychological benefits of mentoring:
1. Mentoring can increase happiness
Do something nice for someone today, and note how you feel after. You are likely to feel happier. Helping someone causes the mood elevating neurotransmitter dopamine to be released in the brain, making a person feel happy. Research featured on the Harvard Business Review found that, “Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).” Being a mentor in a mentorship program is a way to help someone in a structured and repetitive way giving you the opportunity to feel happy on a repeated basis. Repetition is key according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, “The more nice things you do, the more people will respond positively toward you, and the better you’ll feel.”
2. Mentoring can lower blood pressure
When you volunteer your time to mentor, you are likely to decrease your blood pressure. In fact, according to Oprah.com, a 2013 study in the journal Psychology and Aging revealed that: “Adults over the age of 50 who reported volunteering at least 200 hours in the past year (roughly four hours per week) were 40 percent less likely than non-volunteers to have developed hypertension four years later.” The theory is that volunteering your time reduces stress, and reduced stress leads to decreased blood pressure.
3. Mentoring can decrease stress
Think of the last time you were stressed. Who was the focus of your thoughts? Stress tends to put a large focus on the self, and mentoring helps to focus on someone else’s needs thereby shifting your thinking. According to Stephen Post, a research professor of bioethics at Case Western Reserve University, “One of the best ways to overcome stress is to do something to help someone else.”
4. Mentoring increases your social network
When you mentor, you build your social network from the variety of mentees you meet and the contacts they may introduce you to. Having more social connections can greatly increase your quality of life. We are built for connection, and it has a large impact on our cognitive abilities and memory. In fact according to Oprah.com, “a six-year Harvard University study of 16,638 people found that those with the largest social networks had the slowest rate of memory decline.”
5. Mentoring can change your perception of time
Have you ever taught or given advice about a topic you were very experienced in? How did you feel while you were doing this? Research featured on the Harvard Business Review shows that when you give away time, you feel like you have more time in your day. Head researcher Cassie Mogilner explains: “People who give time feel more capable, confident, and useful. They feel they’ve accomplished something and, therefore, that they can accomplish more in the future. And this self-efficacy makes them feel that time is more expansive.” If you mentor about topics you are experienced in, you are likely to feel this same phenomenon.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor, or finding a mentor, visit mentorshipbc.ca for a list of mentorship programs in British Columbia, or join our LinkedIn group for current news and networking opportunities for mentorship in BC.
Aisha Tejani is the Coordinator of Mentorship BC, an online resource for small business owners in BC to find and access mentor programs available to them. To learn more about MentorshipBC, visit their website or connect on Twitter.