A few years ago, Cooper University Health Care’s Stephen Trzeciak, MD, and Anthony Mazzarelli, MD, set out to prove that a medical provider’s depth of compassion matters at least as much as their skill level when it comes to saving lives. The result was “Compassionomics,” a book laying out evidence that positive human connection is the X factor.

Their latest work, “Wonder Drug: 7 Scientifically Proven Ways That Serving Others Is the Best Medicine for Yourself,” takes it a step further. The key to living your best life, they say, is serving others. They chose this excerpt, written by Trzeciak, for SJ Magazine readers.

What if everything you’ve been taught about happiness and fulfillment is wrong? What if the secret to success is not what you think? What is the evidence-based way to live your life?

Conventional thinking is to focus on ourselves, to self-help. (How’s that working for you, by the way?) It doesn’t add up. The bulk of scientific evidence points to a totally different paradigm, and it’s been right in front of us all along.

The self-serving, self-help culture is not going to get you to true happiness, fulfillment, or success. But serving others will get you there, and we can prove it.

The paradigm shift we’d like to usher in: by serving others, your life will crack wide open in only the best ways. But – here’s the mind-bender – if you do it only for selfish reasons, you might as well forget it. To benefit from what Mazz and I call the “Live to Give” mindset, you have to mean it, and we will show you the evidence. We’re asking you to care, to really care, about other people, and to back that up with action. It’s not a subtle “art.” It’s hard science. We have science-d the heck out of serving others, and if you want to rewire your brain for joy and alter your physiology for longevity and health, you have to go all in.

Anthony Mazzarelli, MD,
Co-President/CEO,
Cooper University Health Care

Stephen Trzeciak, MD
Chair and Chief of the
Department of Medicine,
Cooper University Health Care

Karma, boomeranging, paying forward are emotional, sentimental concepts. We humans take comfort in these concepts because they “feel” just. They give us comfort and a measure of control, as in, If I’m a good person, I’ll have a happy life, despite knowing, and seeing in their own experience, that there is little anyone can do to protect oneself from the curveballs of life. There is no protection from bad things happening, even if you’re a good person. Serving others or giving of yourself isn’t a deal you make with the universe. It’s a way of life that lowers stress, fine-tunes your body’s physiology, deepens relationships, promotes resilience to hardships, and can even help you earn more money.

Giving is not transactional though. It’s transformational. Giving impacts living in a virtuous cycle of positive emotion and better health. People who have figured this out, either by new revelation after seeing the science behind it or perhaps the science just confirmed/supported something they always knew intuitively, are people Mazz and I call “Live to Givers.”

In this book, we’re appealing to your sense of reason, your mind. We’re making a scientific case for focusing your life on serving others. You don’t have to feel an obligation to do your part or to hedge your karmic bets. We’re presenting an altruism protocol because it’s proven to work.

Our style, if you will, is to look at familiar things in an unfamiliar way. We take concepts that are typically considered to be in the sentimental and emotional or moral and ethical domains, and we place them under the scrutiny of science. We can look at, for example, how being selfless in marriage or whether reaching across the aisle to find common ground is beneficial not only in meaningful but also in measurable ways. We can provide stats on how it matters, how much it matters, how it works, what biological mechanisms are triggered.

As medical doctors with the goal of changing minds through science, we only know what we know from data. And we have an avalanche of it that supports that if you Live to Give, you can have a longer, happier, healthier life with better relationships and more professional success. Everything you want out of life can be had by focusing your energy and intention on other people. Through altruism, you can transform into a new state of mind and body and become a new person.

We want to be clear. This is not a do-gooder book, it’s a science book. And we’re not do-gooders. We are physician scientists. You will get no “holier than thou” from us, for sure.

Science shows that giving is way better for you than grasping. And our job here is to deliver the message. Serving others can be a wonder drug. It’s effective treatment for scores of conditions, and there are essentially no side effects.

If you are in a dark place, just stuck in a rut or feel lost, we prescribe serving others. We’d prescribe it to every single person on earth. We’d pump it into the water supply. Since we haven’t figured out how to do that (yet), we offer you this book instead.

Wonder Drug is perhaps the most counterintuitive “self-help” book you’re ever going to read. We’re going to teach you how to let go of the goal of helping yourself, and in so doing, help yourself

Published with permission by St. Martin’s Press

June 2022
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