Doing something nice for someone else often leaves people feeling good about themselves and positive about their place in the world.
Yes, according to a growing body of research that has found that “positive activity interventions” — like helping someone with groceries, writing a thank you note or even counting your blessings — can serve as an effective, low-cost treatment for depression.
I am 14 years old, it’s the middle of the afternoon, and I’m curled into a ball at the bottom of the stairs. I’ve intended to drag my uncooperative limbs upstairs to my dark disaster of a bedroom and sleep until everything hurts a little less, but my body and brain have simply drained down. I crumple into a bony, frizzy-haired heap on the gold shag rug, convinced that the only thing I have left to offer the world is the removal of my ugly presence from it, but at that moment, I’m too exhausted to do anything about it.
I sink into unconsciousness, mumbling over and over again, “I need help… I need help… I need help.” I’m too quiet. No one hears.
With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.
Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.
Most of us know that if we eat our fruit and veggies, exercise often, and avoid smoking, we have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives. But your doctor may not have told you that regularly giving to others should perhaps be added to that healthy checklist. A new paper by Dr. Suzanne Richards and collegues at the University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK, reviewed 40 studies from the past 20 years on the link between volunteering and health. Published today in BMC Public Health, the paper finds that volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22 percent reduction in the risk of dying.
I feel that most of my depression stemmed from a nagging sense that something in my life was missing. No matter what I accomplished, I always felt I was in a race to be more, do more, get more. I couldn’t figure out what I was missing, or what needed to be fixed, but my inability to find it was causing me a great deal of pain and struggle.
Despite that feeling of struggle, I continued to do the best I could with my life. I made daily efforts to fill that something sized hole with things like success, money and professional accolades. My efforts were admirable, at least.
Depression drains your energy, hope, and drive, making it difficult to take the steps that will help you to feel better. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or spending time with friends, can seem exhausting or impossible to put into action.
That a “universally beloved” entertainer like Robin Williams could commit suicide “speaks to the power of psychiatric illness,” mental health experts say.
The fact that someone as successful as Williams could kill himself shows that suicide is “not about objective markers of happiness and success,” said Dost Ongur, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the psychotic disorders division at McLean Hospital outside of Boston.
Giving back has an effect on your body. Studies show that when people donated to charity, the mesolimbic system, the portion of the brain responsible for feelings of reward, was triggered. The brain also releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you to perform more kind acts — something psychologists call “helper’s high.”