A major goal of Positive Psychology and Goal-Achieving Psychotherapy is to feel good about our selves. This type of attitude enables us to use our personal strengths to overcome problems and move into more positive phases of our lives.
It may thus seem paradoxical to learn that one of the things that can help us feel better occurs when we concentrate some of our efforts on the needs of others. Just as it is hard to be happy and depressed at the same time and it is hard to be active and depressed at the same time, it is also hard to be of service to others and feel badly about our selves at the same time.
Helping others helps us on several levels. There is an inner-reward from making a difference in someone else’s life. Often times under those circumstances, we also get positive feedback from the person(s) that we are helping. And it is a confidence builder to be able to do something that might not get done without us – which may prevent needless suffering or disappointment in someone else. The activity level involved in helping another person or family also reduces the chances of us getting depressed.
Where do we find others to help? It doesn’t often need to involve a major search. It may be as simple as looking around at your family and noticing if someone is taking on an unfair share of the household or childrearing tasks, and realizing that doesn’t have to be a way of life in the home. There may also be friends or neighbors or coworkers whose health or financial circumstances may limit their ability to do their required activities and they may not be able to afford to hire others to do so. And there are always schools, hospitals, and other charitable institutions in need of volunteers.
As you probably know by now, The Mental Health Gym is opposed to too much passivity – in our lifestyles, interactions with others, and plans for personal growth. It is important to recognize that one of the ways of being active and feeling good about our selves is by helping others to feel good too. If that is an area of your life that is lacking, this would be a good time for this type of positive change.
Ron Kaiser, PH.D.
May 10, 2012