Can You Really Feel Better By Helping Someone?

Relieve Your Stress and Depression through Volunteering

Holding the hand of another“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” Leo Buscaglia

One of the last things you might think of doing when you are very stressed is to take the time to help someone else, volunteering. But it can truly be the best thing you can do. I know this from my own personal experience.

Not too long ago, I was tired, frustrated and upset over a business issue, not sure what to do about it.  I was very stressed. Heading home with my husband that night, we turned down our street. He said, “There’s a girl sitting on the corner crying.” We immediately stopped the car and I got out to talk to her. Turns out, she was working for one of those magazine sales companies where they drop off youths and pick them up at the end of the day. She had no phone and no money; her ride was two hours late. So we called her manager and he said a ride was on its way. She waited in the car with us, shared her tragic life story, and when no ride arrived after 45 minutes, we turned around and drove her the half hour distance to her motel. When we arrived, I spoke to the manager about taking better care of this young woman (she was 20,) gave her some money and hugged her goodbye with some encouraging words. As we drove home again, all thoughts about my problems had completely vanished. My concerns were for her and how I could help others like her in the future. I realized my problems were far less pressing. There are those who are struggling to get by every day on the streets. It gave me a whole new appreciation of how fortunate I am.

A new study by Dr. Suzanne Richards and the University of Exeter Medical School, UK, confirms what other studies have said in the past:  volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22 % reduction in dying.

There are infinite ways to volunteer:
• mentor a child • help a neighbor repair their home
• organize a fundraiser for the arts
• work at a soup kitchen
• help at a homeless shelter
• participate in a “clean up your park” project
• volunteer at an animal shelter
• read to seniors at a senior center or hospital
• collect diapers for newborn centers
• help out at elementary schools
• collect books for literacy programs and then read for them

Try it.  No matter how upset you are about your life, you will experience an instant turn-around.  Always come from your heart and volunteer for something that matters to you.  And just like that, your problems will seem insignificant.

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