Help Yourself By Helping Others

Self-help, self-development, self-healing, self-discovery, self, self, self; have I made myself clear? We’re focusing on MYSELF, right now... just kidding. However, we’re not going to focus on YOU either; but rather, we’re going to shine a light on helping others and the effects it has on you. The irony is that there is an incredible thing that happens to us when we choose to serve others, we find deep inner healing and joy, along with generally improved mental and physical health. How about that for some self-help? So, we will inevitably talk about ourselves, but with the intention to shift that focus on how we can include helping others as part of how we live our lives.

Serving others in any capacity, whether it be with your time, money, skills and/or resources, has a tremendous effect on our mental and physical health. There are several striking effects on our mental health that I will make note of, as well as physical effects that are incredible! Our society has been so consumed with a tunnel vision of self-healing, that we’ve taken the focus completely off of others and onto ourselves and what we need to do for ourselves is to heal. By even the first mention of the fact that self-healing can indeed occur, in a significant way, by actually focusing on others, and not ourselves, seems counterintuitive. However, if we stop to think about what the scientists, counselors, and psychologists are saying about what the effects of serving others has on our health, we may begin to change our perspectives and make serving others a priority in our lives.

First, let’s look at how serving others improves our mental health. For one, volunteering time or money, makes us feel really good when we truly believe in the cause and have our heart set on helping people. That alone is a factor that plays into improving one’s longevity. Another mental benefit to serving others is the sense of purpose we develop when we know what we have contributed made a positive impact on others. So much depression and anxiety, especially in the elderly and in teens, is the lack of a sense of purpose. People’s sense of self-worth, purpose, and self-image and confidence are greatly improved by regular volunteering. While serving others is not a fix-all for everything we face, practicing donating your time and/or money and resources regularly has been observed to improve one’s mental health in numerous ways.

Second, we may look at how helping others improves our physical health. One of the more obvious effects that volunteering our time will have on our bodies is that it keeps us physically active. When we are out and about, we are focusing on dealing with life around us rather than sitting at home doing something unproductive. Some of the not so obvious effects are found in studies that show when people help others consistently, they experience decreased levels of chronic pain. Basically, our brains are designed to produce certain chemicals when we are genuinely helping others that cause us to feel less physical pain! Not only pain, but stress is also greatly decreased, if serving others is done for genuinely altruistic reasons. Along with decreased stress and chronic pain comes an improvement in cardiovascular health.

A Carnegie Mellon study showed that 200 hours a year of volunteering one’s time correlated with lower blood pressure. By this, we can certainly begin to understand the benefits to our physical health in helping others, with the genuine intention to serve. Third, and lastly, there is a huge socio-economic benefit to volunteering. 1. We are helping to uplift and restore the community, through our time, money, and/or resources. 2. We are making career connections and can improve our own careers by volunteering in similar fields. 3. We are making bonds and relationships with those we work with and those we serve. We are connecting with the community in meaningful ways and expanding our own community and relationships. 4. We impact others. We help shape the lives of those we serve by helping them! 5. We are setting an example for others to be inspired and motivated to do the same. Volunteering with a heart set on helping others, is a contagious act! Other people will want to share in your joy.

Looking at the numerous ways helping others help ourselves, we must remind ourselves that helping others is not about helping ourselves, but rather, about serving the community. We will need to remind ourselves that we are serving something much bigger than ourselves; serving so that our lives can make an impact on at least one person’s life. We have no idea the ripple effect that our actions have on the world. And the more meaningful actions we produce, the more meaningful experiences we will help to create for others, and ultimately ourselves. I hope you have been inspired to pursue helping others within your ability and your capacity. With that, I wish you happy healing in helping others.

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_volunteering_can_help_your_mental_health https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empathy-gap/201308/the-caring-cure-can- helping-others-help-yourself https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind- 201306266428 https://www.cnn.com/2019/12/30/health/volunteering-reduces-pain-wellness/index.html