Why Helping Others Helps Your Depression
Depression is brought on by a lack of self-esteem, a lack of self-worth and the absence of positive emotion in one’s life. Some try therapy to help themselves feel better. Others try medication. While both methods can be helpful, they cost money, which can exclude some from taking those routes. One method that is completely free, and has been proven time and again to be effective in improving one’s self-worth is volunteering.
Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose. Helping others, only for the sake of helping others, can help you feel good about yourself. Volunteering can create a positive emotions. Over time, it can create an upward spiral in your life, helping you maintain that positive emotional state while increasing your self-esteem and self-worth at the same time. Improving these aspects of your life can combine to lessen, or even eradicate your depression.
When you help someone in need, the appreciation they give you makes you feel good about yourself and boosts your self-respect. It also helps you to stop focusing on what is making you depressed. When you volunteer regularly, you can create a snowball effect in yourself, adding more self-worth, self-esteem, and positive emotions as you go.
Small Efforts Go a Long Way
Volunteering isn’t hard to get involved in and is usually not hard. It is something you can jump right into, or even just stick a toe in the water to test it out. You can help others right in your own home to start, perhaps by fixing a cup of tea for someone who has just come in from the cold, or paying someone an unanticipated compliment. Help someone with their groceries, or write a thank you note. Even small gestures like those are appreciated. From there, you can develop the gumption to branch out and look for bigger volunteering opportunities, with bigger benefits.
Volunteering can also get you out of the house, where you might be sequestering yourself due to your depression. Going to a soup kitchen to help serve meals puts you in touch with those who are really in need. It requires that you be out of your house for a certain length of time, and puts you in touch with those truly appreciate your service. Those same people will eventually get to know you and often will have nothing but good things to say about you.
Other volunteer activities that you might consider trying are:
- Going to a hospital and offering to spend some time with lonely patients, who also may be depressed. You can get a double dose here, in that while trying to make someone feel better, you can get a better vision of the things that are bringing you down – things that shouldn’t be bringing you down.
- Helping a garden club plant bulbs or plants in a public area, which might otherwise just be covered in grass. You can engage with others and develop positive emotions from their kind words. And when you are finished, you get the immediate gratification in seeing the beautiful finished product, knowing that you contributed to it.
- Visiting a long-term care facility and offering to spend time reading to residents, playing a game of cards or just sitting and talking. For those who don’t have many visitors, you can almost see the gratitude in their eyes. This alone can help you feel your worth in the world.
- Fostering a pet. Having a cat or dog in your house, and getting the unconditional love that comes with it, makes you realize that you are needed. A dog has to be walked and exercised, which again gets you out of the house, and the love of a cat who chooses to curl up on your lap for a snooze can melt your heart.
These are all simple acts that don’t require going to a doctor or taking medication. And you can choose to volunteer where you would like to volunteer, not where someone says you have to.
Choose to Make a Difference
Volunteering feels good. It will help you get your mind off of your own worries, and help you develop a sense of worth and a more positive self-esteem. It creates positive emotions over and over again when you engage through others and realize that you are of value and make a difference in the world.
Find someone who cannot pay you back, and give them something. The positive reinforcement they give you back is priceless.