Volunteering and Mental Health

Giving Is Good for Your Mental Health

There’s nothing quite like the joy of watching someone we love open a gift we know they’d love. Or the warmth that settles over us when we can provide someone who has very little with the stuff everyone deserves. As humans, it’s in our nature to lend our kindness to others.

It’s the season of giving and it’s also a good reminder that when we help others, we also help ourselves. And kindness doesn’t have to be grand, over-the-top gestures – everyone deserves a smile on a bad day. There’s truly no end to the ways we can give back to others.

Mental health is a challenge for many during this time of the year. Whether you’re struggling or know someone who is, we could all use each other. If you have a lot on your mind, consider lifting your spirits by spreading kindness through your community.

 

What Volunteering Can Do for Your Health

The holidays are all about giving. Whether you give time, energy, or money for a noteworthy cause, it’s sure to lift your spirits! According to Talkspace, the ‘helper’s high’ can be defined as a selfless act that increases feelings of positivity and happiness. Simply put, helping someone else in need can help you. In a John Hopkins study, it was reported by researchers that those who provided support to others had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.

When we give back, we secrete feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin that activate parts of the brain related to pleasure, trust, and relationships. Another added benefit of the ‘helper’s high’ is that by helping others in need, we positively distract ourselves from our own problems. Distraction is a long-time, coveted skill in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). In DBT, distraction is known as a survival skill. Not only that but giving back can help put things into perspective. One hour of volunteering a week is enough to influence positive change in one’s life.

Manage Stress and Anxiety

Stress is a normal and essential part of life, but in prolonged amounts, it is hard on both your mental and physical health. A 2015 study outlines how chronic stress is linked to changes in the brain. As contradicting as it may seem, giving back to others can combat this stress. Volunteering gives a sense of accomplishment and pride, which helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

Improve Confidence

Kindness is like a wave. Making a positive difference in someone’s life has a powerful ripple effect that spreads through our communities. When we express kindness to others, we inspire others to do the same.

If you often experience feelings of unworthiness and negative self-talk, consider giving your time to others. In the midst of mental struggles, it’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and want to isolate yourself from the world. Volunteering or helping someone else is a positive way to get out of your head and encourages you to see the good in yourself.

Find Purpose

Have you ever noticed how anxiety and depression creep in when you feel as if there’s nothing to live for? That’s because a lack of purpose can create an emptiness within. Our sense of purpose is often what guides the decisions we make, and without it, we end up feeling lost. And although there are times when we lose sight of it, we all have a purpose here.

We all innately desire to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Finding ways to serve other people, animals, or communities is the greatest purpose of all. Serving your community is a fulfilling task and can change your perspective.

Reduce Loneliness

We are designed for connection. Without connection, it’s easy to lose sight of happiness. Loneliness has all kinds of health implications, and if you already have a mental health disorder, it can make symptoms worse.

Working with others for a good cause or just simply helping someone in need strengthens our sense of connection with the rest of the world. Volunteering can give you the opportunity to make friends and increases happiness.

Different Ways to Help Others

Unsure of how you can make an impact? There are dozens of ways to give to others, big and small, and they all matter equally. Community thrives on the kindness of those within it. Depending on your personal situation and what you’re able to give, there is always a way to lend your support.

Donate

You can donate physical items, money, or even your time. The point is, there are countless charities and organizations that need donations in order to keep them running. And if you know someone on a personal level that could use your help, you have the opportunity to donate on a smaller scale and still make a big impact.

Volunteer

Every community has an animal and homeless shelter, a retirement home, and other public organizations that could use extra hands. Volunteering can also be as simple as helping your neighbor get their groceries in the door.

Random Acts of Kindness

Never underestimate small acts of kindness. In the same way that a dirty look can put a damper on an already bad day, a smile can turn it around. This is one of the best ways to give back because you can do something small and random each day. There are so many ways to show small acts of kindness, but here are a few examples.

Talk To a Therapist

In the depths of depression or anxiety, doing things for yourself, let alone others can feel unsurmountable. If you are having a hard time connecting with yourself and the world, you are not alone.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you at our Flower Mound, Texas, and Southlake, Texas, offices. Our Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and Counselors specialize in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychological testing, and medication management for a variety of emotional and behavioral health needs. All services are available in-person and online (telehealth). If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are here to help.

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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