Helping others not only benefits those you help but it can actually benefit you in the process. Some benefits include connecting with others, taking your mind off of your own worries, and giving you a sense of purpose and meaning.
Recent research has shown that both the mind and body respond positively when we are kind to others. Basically, our mental health is benefited when we help others.
It may seem counterproductive to help others when you are the one struggling. After all, the first instinct is to withdraw from others so that we can focus on our own mental health. What if I told you that turning inward is not always the best choice?
When you look outside of yourself you open your eyes to the struggles others are facing. This helps to shift your perspective of the challenges you face and help you see all the good in your life. Essentially it helps change your thinking patterns for the better.
When helping others you gain a higher sense of accomplishment which in turn helps your feelings of self-worth grow.
Feelings of connection and belonging also increase as you give of yourself in service which can contribute to a reduction in feelings of loneliness.
These positive effects combined together can ultimately help improve your mental well-being through the positive effects it has as well as the way kindness can decrease depression.
Children also have much they can learn from serving others. One thing they learn from helping others is self-efficacy. They learn this from accomplishing the moderately challenging tasks associated with service. Childrens' self-esteem can also increase as they help others due to the good feelings that come from being kind.
Of course, all that has been mentioned thus far benefits the giver. There are numerous ways kindness and service help the receiver.
Whether it be a random act of kindness or spending time volunteering at a local organization, a kind action helps those who are in difficult times to continue onward. This could be because of the support they have received to help meet their needs or because of a kind gesture that helps them have a better attitude towards life.
Helping others doesn't always have to be done in a certain way. There are many ways we can be kind and help others. Some ideas include:
calling a friend
making breakfast in bed for your spouse
writing a nice note to your coworker
holding the door open for the person behind you
smiling to someone as you pass by them
visiting a nursing home and talking with some of the residents there
volunteering at a food bank
Please don't feel limited to only these suggestions. Be creative and do new things each day that help others or put a smile on others' faces.
Now there are a few cautions to be aware of when helping others. It can be easy to take on too much which can cause added stress to your life so be careful not to overcommit.
If someone asks you for a favor it is okay to say no. Just be sure to think it through before committing to helping someone out.
When helping others, it is about finding the right balance. Learning to balance service with your usual responsibilities is important so start slow and learn what works best for you.
Deavers, L. (2019). Helping others is good for your mental health. Family Counseling Service. https://www.counselingservice.org/post/2019/03/05/helping-others-is-good-for-your-mental-health.
Kindness health facts. Dartmouth. (n.d.). https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf.
Kirk, K. (2021). Self-efficacy: Helping student believe in themselves. Teach the Earth. https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/efficacy.html.
Post, S. G. (n.d.). Help others. Mental Health America. https://www.mhanational.org/help-others.
Roberts, E. (2017). How helping others improves your self-esteem. HealthyPlace. https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/buildingselfesteem/2017/09/how-helping-others-improves-your-self-esteem.
Siegle , S. (2020). The art of kindness. Mayo Clinic Health System. https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/the-art-of-kindness.