So, you know how I said that asking for help gives others the opportunity to assist, and in return gives them feelings of joy and satisfaction? Well, by giving help to others, we are also allowing ourselves to feel those things. Knowing we have made someone else happy is far more powerful than we can possibly imagine.
A lot of us are far more fortunate than we realise and after the first habit of focusing on what's going right, we realise we have so much to be thankful for. Becomming aware of this gives us far more reason to help those who are less privileged than us, knowing we are able to. Research even shows that giving to others leads to greater happiness for ourselves and can even make us live longer by boosting mental and physical health, lowering stress and depression and increasing our self-esteem (I).
Whilst on FaceTime to my best friend yesterday, she told me that children, from all over, have been sending letters to the care home she works at. The children have been writing things such as their name and age, and also what they learnt that day whilst being homeschooled during this pandemic. She told me that the elderly residents often reply by telling stories of what they were doing when they were the child’s age, with one mentioning that when she was ten, she was having to evacuate because of the war.
What a wonderful idea! It put a huge smile on my face when I heard about it and I bet it did even more for the writers and receivers of those letters. Reading others stories, and sharing their own, no doubt increased their sense of connection to one another. And for the elderly residents, who currently can’t accept visitors or access video calls, it helped massively with their feelings of isolation from the world. We are told to socially distance, and yet the real positive in all of this is that it truly is bringing us closer together.
Random acts of kindness
The story of the care home is a powerful reminder that money isn’t the only way we can give to others. During this time of financial difficulty for many, there are still so many other ways that we can help. Whether that’s simply just calling our friends and family to check in on them and combat loneliness or by taking essential shopping, and leaving it on the step, for those who are unable to get out. Maybe it’s simply making a cup of tea for those in your household, and reminding them to breathe, if you know they might be feeling especially anxious about the current situation. Whatever it is, just do good. And when this is all over, here are some other ideas we can adapt to all year round.
Offer your skills to charities
Staying home doesn’t mean that you can’t still help charities, or other people that might need it. Maybe right now you can offer your valuable skills in marketing, design, finance or mentoring to a charity, knowing they need the support more than ever. Volunteering has long been linked to increasing our overall happiness, confidence and connection to others. But studies also show that it reduces anxiety and boosts our overall ability to cope with everyday tasks in life (II). This is because volunteering gives us a sense of purpose, keeping us mentally stimulated and less focused on our own worries.
Donate to a cause you care about
Despite the financial uncertainty many of us are currently facing, small charities are also experiencing these threats, through the cancellation of major fundraising events and the disruption this pandemic is having on regular income streams. That’s why more than ever, we need to continue donating if we can. We all have something we are passionate about and we gain so much satisfaction from giving to a cause we relate to.
The reason I continuously support Brainstrust isn’t just because I had a brain tumour and can relate in that way. It’s because they personally supported me in a way that was so humbling. They made it possible for me to get a third opinion from a leading surgeon after I received mixed advice. They sent me a box of resources to help navigate such an unsettling diagnosis and they provided opportunities to meet with other people going through the same thing, reminding us all that we aren’t alone. And, they still continually check in on me to remind me they are there if I need a chat! Experiencing all this first hand makes me want to help them continue to provide that support to others because it really does make a difference. Whatever the cause is for you, find one you truly care about and give whatever you can.
Read: On Board With Brainstrust: Why My Attitude Towards Charities Changed Forever
I saw a post last night from the NHS asking for an ‘army’ of volunteers to sign up and support a vulnerable person. Once checks have been made, this can be done by fetching supplies for people in need, transporting patients who are fit to go back to their homes, assisting pharmacies with the transport of medical deliveries or checking in by phone to those at risk of loneliness. If you can help in anyway, and want to do something worthwhile right now, check out GoodSAM for more details on how to join.
Give without expecting anything in return and reap the physical and mental benefits of doing so. Because when we carry out altruistic acts, and have a genuine selfless concern for the well-being of others, we activate the reward centres in our brains. We gain pleasure, and an increased sense of purpose and belonging, when we help others, leading to greater happiness for both parties. It doesn’t matter whether you can give financially, intangibly, a little or a lot. What matters most is appreciating those around you and doing what you can.