Many people in today's world say that they want to make a difference in the lives of others. But some people feel absolutely helpless to do so. The good news is - you're not! There are a lot of things that you can do in order to help other people out, and it actually has a number of mental health benefits for you as well. In today's post, we're going to look at some of the things that you can do to help other people and how it can help you to heal and stay healthy emotionally.
Why Does Helping Others Affect Mental Health?
Helping others can play a huge role in helping with your mental health, and with other areas of your health as well. Here are some of the most significant ways that helping others can help you to be more mentally healthy and stable.
Helping others can help you to live a longer, healthier life. Yes, it's true, volunteering can help you to extend your lifespan. Not only will you get a lot of health benefits, but by giving of yourself to other people, you will find that your life is longer and healthier because you will be more apt to take care of yourself in all areas of your life, from emotional, to mental, to physical. And who doesn't want to make sure that they live longer and healthier? Sounds like a great benefit to me!
Helping others can help you to make social connections and to "get out more." Some people don't get out a lot, but volunteering is a great way for you to socialize and talk to other people on a regular basis. You will meet new people, make new connections, and feel more comfortable in social situations if you are volunteering and helping others on a regular basis. It can also help to strengthen your relationships and increase the amount of communication that you offer to your loved ones and those around you.
Helping others can help you to increase your confidence and worth. If you are helping other people, it can help you to feel as if you are making a difference in the world. Sometimes it's hard for us to see that, but if you put the time in and make sure that you are really helping others, you can feel as if you are doing something great! Confidence and self-worth are hard to develop for some people, but volunteering can help give you a head start on that.
Helping others can help you to enjoy life more and feel fulfilled. Life is good, but life is better when shared with others and helping those who may be struggling with different issues in their lives. By giving of yourself, you will find that there are a lot of people out there that need your help and your love, and you will definitely feel as if you are better able to deal with life's everyday struggles.
These, obviously, aren't the only reasons that it can help, but they are some of the most common benefits that you will see talked about when looking at volunteering and mental health.
What Can I Do to Help Others?
The good news about the answer to this question is that you can do almost anything. The only things that are holding you back are the amount of time that you have and the amount of creativity you are willing to put into whatever you are doing. Instead of giving you specific ideas here, I'm going to give you a list of questions that you can ask yourself when you are trying to determine exactly what you want to do in order to help others out. Here are some questions that you can start out with, and you can break off from as well.
What do I like to do (hobbies, activities, etc)? Everyone has a hobby, and everyone has stuff that they like to do. By asking yourself what you like to do, you may be able to start a journey to figure out exactly how you can use that to help others. Even if it's something as simple as helping to coach a softball team or going out and spending time doing crafts with kids, you will find that the way that you help people can come right out of the things that you enjoy doing on a regular basis - and that will make it that much easier for you to do.
What am I good at doing (things you're especially skilled at)? Some of us are good at certain things. For example, I've always been good at mentoring, and I mentor teenagers as one of my big things that I do to help other people. I'm good at helping people to go after their fullest potential in a healthy way, and pushing them to their limits, even if it makes them uncomfortable at times. Usually, this question goes hand in hand with the above question - as an example, I also really love mentoring teenagers, too. So combine these two questions to see if there's a "sweet spot" that you can utilize.
Is there anything I've ever done to help others that I've enjoyed? Sometimes, we aren't exceptionally good at something, but we may find that we liked it just because we stepped in to help at some point. To use another example from my life, in college, I used to run the slides for a group that I was involved with, and I would make up the slide shows and stuff so that there were words to follow for singing. I wasn't exceptionally quick at it, but when I started working with teens, that was something that was needed and I ended up stepping in to help with that too. I got better at it over time, but I knew I at least liked it, so I could do it.
Am I someone that likes to be in the limelight or do I prefer to be behind the scenes? This is important to ask, because there are different things that people can do. Do you like to be someone that just goes behind the scenes and makes things work the way that they need to work, or are you the person that likes to get up and talk in front of other people? This can help you determine the best places you can help, because there are jobs for both types of people, and both play a significant role in our communities and organizations.
What is available in the community around me? Is there a specific need that needs to be addressed? Some communities have a lot of volunteer positions and places to help. Other communities don't have anything available at all, or the choices are very limited. This, of course, could end up limiting what you are able to do and how you are able to do it, so you want to make sure that you do your research before getting your heart set on something. Also, with this question, you should ask yourself if you're willing to go elsewhere in order to do the things that you love. How far would you be willing to travel in order to do what you enjoy and to help people out? Think about that question too.
Is there something I can do for a specific individual in my life in order to help their day(s) go a bit better? Sometimes, you don't need to be involved in an organization or as a volunteer to help people. There may be someone that you know that lives alone and likes to be visited sometimes. Someone you know may be sick and may need some help taking care of some chores or whatever. Someone else may be on crutches and can't do certain things without a little help. Look around at the people in your life and see what you can do to help them as well - it makes a huge difference, even if you're just helping a few people out at a time.
There are plenty of ways that you can help others and show them the love that they need. It may take some time and brainstorming to do so, but we've all got something that we can contribute to the world around us. Talk to your therapist if you want some ideas that you can try for yourself, or if you think that helping people can help relieve some of the stress that you've been feeling as a result of your mental health struggles or other life struggles. They can help you to get started quickly and to figure out what may be a good fit for your skills and purposes.
Hall, J. (2013, May 26). 10 Ways To Help Others That Will Lead You To Success. Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2013/05/26/10-ways-to-help-others-that-will-lead-you-to-success/
Lyubomirsky, S. (n.d.). Connect with Others. Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/connect-others
Siasen, J., Smith, M., & Kemp, G. (2013, September). Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits. Retrieved July 4, 2014, from http://www.helpguide.org/life/volunteer_opportunities_benefits_volunteering.htm
Szalavitz, M. (2014, August 23). Helping Others Helps You to Live Longer | TIME.com. Retrieved from http://healthland.time.com/2013/08/23/helping-others-helps-you-to-live-longer/
Turgeon, J. K. (2011, July 28). 19 Healthy Reasons To Help Others. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/28/health-benefits-of-volunteering-helping-others_n_909713.html#s316118title=Helpers_Live_Longer