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The Power of Volunteering: How Helping Others Can Help You

women volunteering

It’s more than just lending a helping hand.

Tony Robbins states “the secret to living is giving”, and what he implies by this is that a lot of people go through their lives as consumers, and in doing so, they only scratch the tip of the iceberg in terms of the richness of life.  

See, when did you last feel completely fulfilled, happy, and content?  There’s a strong chance, that it had something to do with giving back to someone else; whether that’s as simple as placing a few dollars in a homeless person’s hand, being a student volunteer at a local housing project, or something as intimate as treating your partner to an elaborate surprise.

It seems we only truly feel alive when we are giving back, yet in a world full of ‘takers’ where many people consider others to be out for themselves, the rewards of life can be found in the power of giving.

Indeed, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that shows giving is beneficial to both the recipient and the giver.

This power of giving can be particularly helpful for people facing emotional difficulties, as it shifts the focus from their internal world, which they are often trapped in, if they are in a state of depression or anxiety – and allows them to get out of themselves, in the sense of getting out their own heads, to focusing on something external to themselves.

The challenge is that when the focus is internal, we often ruminate, and get lost in the windmills of our mind where we mull things over and over, which in turn exacerbates the anxiety or depression one might feel, which creates a vicious cycle and downward spiral.

However, when the focus shifts to being outside of ourselves, we are able to take a breath and gain some perspective and clarity.  In particular, when we help another person, we often feel we are able to make a difference in that person’s life, no matter how small, and this empowered feeling is a great way to break the negative pattern of anxiety and depression; as it leads to feelings that are opposite to the emotional state one often feels when stressed out.

There are other aspects to consider too, such as the fact you will be around more people, develop a community, and potentially even expand your professional network with people that will respect your contribution.

The altruism one feels from giving to another has been proven to have a similar physiological effect, on the body, to a runner’s high.  This is known as the “helper’s high”, where a variety of studies have demonstrated that when a person helps another they receive a feeling of being more strong, energetic, and happy – they get an endorphin rush similar to the endorphin rush experienced from a person engaging in cardiovascular exercise; meaning their nervous system and entire body is flooded with feel-good hormones.

In summary, the secret to living might indeed be giving, and it’s not just the recipient of your help that will receive the benefit; you will too… and in a world that is becoming less and less connected, in the sense neighborly love, the idea of giving back to your community, to your family, or simply to strangers you meet is a great way to rediscover your connection with humanity and feel better about yourself.

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