Healing Through Helping
Life can be heavy. Every day we are faced with big responsibilities, like career, school, kids, family, etc. The expectation to be successful in our lives can, and most likely has, caused an unmanageable amount of stress. We all know that stress has a significant affect on motivation, our ability to perform, and most of all our overall happiness. The side effects on your body, mood, and behavior can have damaging repercussions. While we may not always be able to eliminate stress from our lives completely, there are many things we can do to alleviate the side effects and make us feel better. Exercise, yoga, mediation, and sex can work wonders, but did you know that helping other people ranks high on stress relief?
It’s easy to forget that the primary reason we wake up in the morning and work as hard as we do is not only for ourselves, but the people that we love. Without the capacity to love and maintain relationships, a successful career and a savings account would be meaningless. Stress is reduced when it’s put into perspective. When we become stressed it’s only because we have something worth living and working for. At the very base of our motivation is human connection. This is the reason why it’s easy to find joy in helping others. Helping those who we do not intimately know serves as a healthy reminder that love is what we work for and something that should be appreciated. The genuine pleasure we receive through helping others is a stride towards a fuller and happier life.
Giving is Scientifically Proven to Reduce Stress
Stress and anxiety is a product of a high level of focus on our responsibilities and ourselves. Research has proven that concentrating our efforts and devoting time to the needs of others actively reduces stress by serving as a distraction. Helping others enables us to shift our worrisome and overwhelming thoughts to those in need of attention.
In a study by Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, students were asked to carry out five random acts of kindness a week for six weeks. Those who engaged in the tasks showed a 42% increase in happiness and were also less stressed.
Studies have demonstrated that regularly performing acts of kindness makes people happier for extended periods of time. Frequently alternating acts of kindness has shown to prolong the positive effects of accomplishing good deeds. Like any routine, it can become tedious if the act is not periodically changed. It’s important to make sure that acts of kindness don’t become another chore on your to-do list.
Dr. Stephen Post, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University and founder of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love, is a pioneer in the study of altruism and compassion. His research has shown that when we are giving of ourselves, everything from life satisfaction to self-realization and physical health is significantly and positively affected.
Suggestions to Help Get You Started
There are a variety of ways to help others, some of which are very basic and easy to accomplish if you feel that you don’t have a great deal of free time to devote. Listed here are a few different actions to consider.
Volunteering is the perfect way to combine your interests and passions with your service. Volunteering as little as two hours a week has shown to have a significant impact on attitude. If you love animals you can reach out to your local humane society. If you already spend a great amount of time at the beach and would like to make an effort to keep it clean for your community, organize a beach clean up. If you’re outgoing and love interaction, contact a retirement home or nearby school. Reflect and consider reaching out to those who are currently suffering through a personal hardship that you may have already overcome. The possibilities are endless!
Informally offer a helping hand to family, friends, and neighbors
Giving back can be as easy as lending a needed tool, bringing dinner to someone who’s sick, feeding pets for neighbors on vacation, or offering a ride to someone without a car. This is essentially simply showing a genuine interest in the lives of the people who surround you and offering assistance if and where it’s needed.
It does not have to be a lot of money. Toss change into coffee cans at cash registers or support local organizations by buying a raffle ticket. If this is the route you choose to take consider researching battered women’s shelters, orphanages, or any type of home/organization that stands out to you. Sometimes knowing that your donation is going directly to those in need is a source of comfort. Look for opportunities to give within your means. You’ll help make the world a better place.
This is primarily taking advantage of opportunities throughout daily life. If someone is struggling and reaches out to share this with you or if your intuition leads you to believe that they’re struggling, make an effort to genuinely listen. On many occasions people who are hurting do not want advice or a quick fix but merely to unload the weight of their burdens. Generally knowing that you are not alone in life is enough to help at least a bit. Remind those in your life that you are there for them and prepared to listen.
Some days it’s not easy to smile. Some days we need help too. However, on days that you find yourself feeling high in spirits try to remember to share that happiness with others. Smile at the cashier who is at the tail end of an eight-hour shift. Smile at the bus boy who is clearing your dirty dishes from a table. Try to smile even on the days when it’s hard to because the smile you may receive might end up making your day better.
At the end of the day, making an honest effort to give more to others ultimately improves your life. You will discover a greater appreciation for your loved ones and your life in general. Following this appreciation comes gratitude and happiness. When you feel lucky to be alive that is when you create a life worth living. You will find healing through helping.