Updated: May 3
I’ve come to realize that my mental health is at its peak when I’m helping others. It just warms my heart and soothes my mind when I know that I am making someone else feel good.
I went on my first week-long mission trip when I was 15 years old. It was a trip to Virginia where my church group helped rebuild a man’s porch and renovated his house. I remember how happy the man was after seeing the result of our hard work. He smiled at us with tears in his eyes and told us how grateful he was. I think it shocked him that complete strangers were willing to do something so nice for him for nothing in return.
On the last day, before we left to go home, the man came over to me and handed me a bag of fake antique coins. He told me that the coins were his most valuable possession and that he wanted me to have them. Even though they weren’t worth anything, they were all that he had. It meant so much to me that he gave me something so special to him.
After that trip, I told myself that I would continue to make it my mission to help others in any way that I could, whether it be big or small.
In 2017, I became involved with an organization that helps foster children who have experienced physical and emotional abuse. Every summer, I go to a week-long camp where I am a counselor, role-model, and “big sister” to the kids. For most of these kids, camp is the one time out of the year in which they’re surrounded by love and compassion, so you can imagine how much it means to them to see that we care and want to help better their lives.
While doing this over the years has helped these kids mentally, it has also helped me. It makes me feel so good knowing that I have the power and capability to make these children happier and give them hope.
According to UCL, helping others creates a sense of belonging and purpose and promotes physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness. This heightened sense of well-being is the result of being more physically active due to volunteering and being more socially active.
Helping others doesn’t always have to be a huge ordeal. Sometimes, the small things matter the most.
I challenge you to make the first step by stepping out of your comfort zone to do something nice for someone you don’t know. For instance, sometimes when I am going through a drive thru, I’ll randomly pay for the person’s meal behind me in line. The last time I did this, they rolled down their window and told me that I made their day. It was a good feeling for the both of us.
If you start generating more acts of kindness, you’ll find yourself feeling better. You also might find yourself creating more positive relationships with people, and you could start receiving more acts of kindness in return. A UCL article states that helping others is contagious and people are more likely to be generous after observing others do the same.
When looking at the bigger picture, being nice to someone could save their life. An article by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation tells a true story about a young girl who was about to leave school to go home and commit suicide until one of her classmates stopped her to check on her and see how she was doing. This simple gesture ended up saving the girl’s life. There are so many similar stories to this. It’s amazing what a little love and kindness can do for people.
Take every opportunity you have to help other people. Uplifting yourself and your mind is a necessity, and this can be a part of that process. If you’re kind to someone, it could encourage them to be kind to someone else, and you could be the reason for that cycle!
Whether it’s mission work, volunteering, donating, small gestures, or kind words, it all matters. There are so many different ways to be a light in someone else’s life. There are so many opportunities to be kind and gracious to people.