Helping others is good for you. According to a 2013 study, people who regularly volunteered experienced improvement in well-being and felt happier. This is one of the many studies that found positive relations between helping others and mental health.
Life is not only about what each of us has but also about our ability to share. Even the smallest act of kindness can mean the world to someone, allowing you to change the world for the better. So, let’s talk about how being kind, companionate, and philanthropic can improve your mental health and change lives.
Creating a sense of belonging
After an emotional loss, like divorce, or the death of a spouse, a person can feel detached from their life and lost. Psychology pays special attention to a sense of belonging, defining it as a human drive to feel included and part of a group.
For example, being part of the book club or painting class will bring you that. The same applies to philanthropic efforts. Charity work will help you improve the community and be accepted as its part, giving you a new place to belong.
Expanding your social circle
Depression and anxiety can turn you into a loner and have you avoiding social gatherings. However, volunteering will bring new people into your life naturally and unobtrusively. On the other hand, you can invite friends to join you in your charity work and help you bond with them more.
Even if you are shy or introverted, sharing a mutual goal with someone can break the ice and have you getting to know each other. Social interactions during volunteer work are excellent opportunities to practice being around people and getting used to it. This is especially important for the elderly population since they can feel abandoned and lonely.
Staying active and engaged
Being unemployed is one of the things that can greatly affect your mental health. To avoid falling into depression and seclusion, you need to stay active and engage in activities like volunteer work and charity. For example, you can run a marathon for charity, work at the soup kitchen, help in the animal shelter, or organize the collection of donations.
If you are an expert in a specific field, you can help by providing counsel and being more hands-on, like providing medical assistance at the free clinics. Putting your knowledge and skills to good use will boost your confidence and give you a push to look for a new job.
Working with animals positively affects mood
There are many reasons to start volunteering abroad, and one of them is the opportunity to help and work with animals. For example, you can join turtle conservation in Sri Lanka, work on an alpaca and llama farm in Peru, or care for saved elephants in Thailand. This will allow you to work with animals living in a wildlife sanctuary or save those that have no one else to help them, like stray dogs.
Animals have a tremendously positive effect on mental health by reducing anxiety, depression, and stress. The joy and exhilaration of helping them will help you focus on the positive and remind you that you can regain control over certain aspects of your life. Not to mention that a change of scenery, different cultures, and new landscapes can also nudge your mental health in the healing direction.
Finding new purpose in life
Going over the same routine every day can make you feel less significant and lost. Everyone’s purpose in life is to provide for themselves and their family. But what about finding a purpose that’s uniquely yours and dedicated to making others better?
Helping others is about learning, acceptance, and sacrifice, letting you see into the part of yourself you never knew before. It teaches you to be humble, gentle, and more appreciative of the positive things in life and how to pull through the bad moments.
Helping others makes you happier
Science showed that when you help others, the parts of your brain responsible for pleasure light up. This is why you feel thrilled and excited after doing something nice for others. Some findings show that after a good deed, your body produces serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. These chemicals can improve your mood and make you feel happier and satisfied.
These feel-good chemicals are also great at fighting stress and keeping your body healthier. You will expand your social circle, be more active, better understand your position, and be part of solutions that mends people’s and animals’ well-being.
Taking charge of your life
It’s not easy making decisions every day: what to wear, what to eat, where to go. These may be normal things for others, but people suffering from depression and anxiety face this with panic and resignation. Because of this, finding volunteer work that will allow you to slowly open up and feel comfortable making decisions is the key to taking charge of your life.
This can be something as simple as caring for horses, delivering groceries to the elderly, or holding a painting class for orphaned kids. Your small effort will be a big gesture to those in need, and that is just what you need to understand that you were in charge of others’ well-being, and you aced it.
To wrap up
There is no magic wand to take away the pain, hurt, and misfortune, not for you and not for other living beings on this planet. That doesn’t mean that you can’t try and succeed in making the world better for everyone. By helping others, you improve your mental health and help yourself to understand that world can be a wonderful place.