Mental Health, Relationships, San Diego Counseling, San Diego Therapist, Self Esteem, Stress, Support, Toolkit

Helping Yourself By Helping Others

Helping others can not only help you feel good, but it may also increase physical and emotional well-being. Several studies have indicated that being generous with your time and energy can have a positive effect on how a person thinks and feels. One such study from researchers at Cornell University uncovered that volunteering increases one’s energy, sense of mastery over life and self-esteem.

If you are in a place in your life where you are feeling down in the dumps or without purpose, helping others can bring a feeling of wellbeing to both you and the receiver of your efforts. When you make others’ lives better, you make the world a better place.

Research shows that people who reach out to help others enjoy higher levels of mental health. Creating a balanced lifestyle that includes service to others can help you feel less stress as well, as you feel more connected to your community, more grateful for what you have, and less caught up in the day to day grind and negativity that affects us all from time to time. Focusing on the positive in life, and creating more positive things in the world, can help you to maintain greater feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

People are generally more happy when they have meaning in their lives, and part of living a meaningful life is having a feeling of making a difference in the world. Whether you donate unneeded household items or volunteer your time, there are many ways to get involved with worthy causes, either as an individual, with your partner, or with your whole family. Getting involved with a cause that you believe in, whether you give a little or a lot, can be a great way to spread some joy this year, and create more joy for yourself while you’re at it! The following are some examples of simple ways to get involved:

Because there are many charities that collect donations and run resale shops, you can clear clutter and help a worthy cause at the same time. While many of us have cluttered homes because we can’t bear to toss something that can still be useful (though unnecessary for us), it can be easier to let go of these items knowing that they’ll help in two ways: they’ll provide someone else a chance to find use in them, and the money from their sale can further a cause you believe in! You’ll end up with increased satisfaction and a more streamlined living space, and others will benefit from your unneeded items.

The gift of your time, even an hour a week, can make a significant difference in the lives of others, or for a cause you support. This a great route for many people as it leads to the satisfaction of making a difference, provides an outlet to meet others who share your interest, and often allows you the opportunity to see the difference you make and the people you help.

Maybe you are feeling too stressed and busy to worry about helping others with their burdens, or plan to think about doing good deeds when you have more ‘spare’ time, energy. The truth is, altruism is its own reward, and can actually help you relieve stress. Altruistic acts can improve your quality of life in several ways, and are absolutely worth the effort. Here are some ways that helping others helps you:

Keeping Things In Perspective: Many people don’t realize the strong impact that their perspective of life has on their outlook. However, your way of seeing the world can make a real difference in your level of life satisfaction. Finding yourself in need of help is something that can happen to anyone – not just the downtrodden. Look at the devastation this week from hurricane Sandy. Natural disasters don’t discriminate. People from all walks of life are affected and can use any help we can give.

When you do something nice for someone else, often the positive effects go beyond just you and that other person, influencing your whole community. When you do nice things for others, you often enable them to do nice things for others, and the phenomenon grows. Maybe you have heard that called “paying it forward.” Your children and your friends may see your good example and behave in more altruistic ways as well. As Ghandi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” You can contribute to a more positive community. Not only that, when we are depressed or anxious we may tend to isolate away from others. We may pull back into our shell, where our problems become our whole world. Volunteering some time or helping a cause can bring you back into connection with others.

When you feel stressed and overwhelmed, you may feel like you’re least able to give. However, acts of altruism can be a great form of stress relief. Studies have shown that the act of giving can activate the area of the brain associated with positive feelings, lifting your spirits, and making you feel better. Helping others can lead to emotional well-being, a more positive perspective, and can be a healthy means for relieving stress and increasing life satisfaction.

There are many ways to give back and experience these physical and psychological benefits, including:

* helping at a local school,

* volunteering at a hospital,

* assisting in relief efforts after a natural disaster

* donating blood

* donating unused items, like clothes or appliances

* reading to children at a library,

* helping to care for animals at shelters,

* volunteering at a hospice and comforting those at the end of their lives,

* becoming a companion to a senior citizen.

What might you be able to do right now to reach out and help someone in need? Feel free to share your thoughts below.

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