Depression and anxiety are two different common types of mental illnesses, yet they are related. And to make matters worse, depression and anxiety can reinforce each other, leading to a more severe problem. Depression is characterized by feeling down, sad, or upset for an extended period. Anxiety is or fear and worry that interfere with daily life. Whereas it’s normal to feel sad, fear or worry, when this happens in a prolonged time, then there is a problem.
Several ways can be used to ease anxiety and depression, and one of them is how you interact with others. Helping others – whether small, unplanned acts, or regular volunteering – is a powerful way to boost recovery from anxiety and depression.
It doesn’t have to be people in similar situations or grand gestures (or it can be), but be that as it may, helping others can help you in the following ways:
It shifts your focus.
People suffering from depression and anxiety tend to turn inward and focus on themselves. The outcome is that all their undivided attention is on their problem. It’s not that they’re self-absorbed people; it’s just preoccupation with personal issues, and over worrying often shuts out concern for others.
Alternatively, the effort put when helping others can change your thoughts and emotions from you to others. That way, you’ll replace thought patterns with trying to help someone in need feel better, smile, or cope. Through that process, you’ll be on your healing journey.
Still, interacting with people in need changes the way you see and feel about your life. Let’s say you’re good at doing certain things, helping others not skilled in that particular area can positively change your mindset to recognize you do have useful skills to offer.
Similarly, seeing someone struggling with other issues not affecting you can make you want to keep moving on with your life and feel better about your challenges. It’s not that you’ll be happy you’re not in their shoes, but they might motivate you to face your life with more hope and courage.
Allows for social interaction
People suffering from depression and anxiety tend to isolate themselves from other people, which in turn makes their condition worse. Loneliness plays a notable role in our overall mental health. On the other hand, one of the benefits of helping others – especially volunteering – is the social connections it comes with. You get to get out of the house and meet new people. In the process, you might find you’re interacting with people you would never have met were it not that you were volunteering.
However, through consistent volunteering in a cause you care about, you can create friendships with like-minded people. These relationships can help you deal with loneliness and positively influence your struggle with depression or anxiety.
Also, you never know who is watching you. Human beings can sense the distress of another human being. When interacting with others, chances are they’ll notice your symptoms and decide to help you even if they won’t tell you openly. They might invite you over for dinner or an upcoming party, which in turn will add to your social activities.
You stay physically active.
As noted in the statements above, depression and anxiety often incline the victim to stay at home and avoid the outside world. Sometimes, that person can go for days without much physical activity. This response only negatively influences mental health further. Physical health considerably affects our mental health and vice versa. That’s because every aspect of the body operates together as one unit, focusing on physical activity boosts your mental health, as well.
By helping others in ways such as volunteering, you create one more situation for engaging in physical activity. Even if it’s simply walking down to the local help center, getting up, leaving the house, and being active can help relieve depression and anxiety. While physical activity might not cure depression or anxiety, it can play a significant role in the healing process.
You can be part of a good cause.
The world is full of negative news, and it won’t hurt to be part of the good news. Being part of a positive energy that’s making the world a better place can make you feel good in return. When you focus on the needs of someone else, your stress levels decrease. Once you get used to this habit, it’ll keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.
The points above points are about an individual helping another. What if the person helped also does an act of kindness to someone in need? Moreover, what if the latter helps someone else too? In this way, a simple act of help spreads from one person to the next, influencing the behavior of people who never saw the original act.
Kindness and caring can also be contagious. Sometimes people are inspired to do something thoughtful when they see someone do something kind or thoughtful or when they’re on the receiving end of kindness. Helping one another is the key to creating a happier community.
The main problem with mental illnesses is that all the action takes place in the brain and only realized when in advanced stages. The simple process of helping others cope with their conditions can empower you to manage depression and anxiety. In short, helping other people connects us to others, creates stronger communities, and helps build a happier society for everyone.
Here are a few acts you can do to help others and, in the process, potentially lower your stress levels:
- Random acts of kindness
- Doing something for a good cause.
- Be there for someone.
However, it’s important to be careful not to give yourself away. There should be a reasonable balance so that you take care of your life as you heal or manage depression and anxiety. Even if it’s just a few minutes a day, the long term effects are beneficial.
Finally, it doesn’t have to be months of volunteering overseas or sending donations to third world countries if you can’t afford that. It would be better if it’s something simpler. Whether it’s helping an elderly neighbor with his/her grocery bags, visiting a sick friend, volunteering at a local help center, you can help with your time, finance, ideas, or energy.
“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” ― Mother Teresa.