Helping Others Helps Ease Depression
I had no idea that helping others would help ease my depression when my daughter and I held an ongoing bake sale to help a friend affected by Hurricane Harvey. For three weeks, we baked and sold our goodies every day. I noticed that, while saddened about all that is going on in the world, my mood improved. Helping others eased my depression, and I stopped to consider how.
Reasons that Helping Others Helps Ease Depression
Helping Others Changes Your Focus
I once read a self-help book on depression that said something like, “A depressed person is self-centered.”
I immediately stopped reading the book. “How dare this person call me self-centered! I already have too many terrible thoughts about myself as it is.”
Over the years, I’ve thought about my reaction to that sentence and have tried to understand what the author was trying to convey. I’ve now arrived at a new perspective and can agree that “A depressed person’s thoughts are turned toward the self.”
Thoughts like, “What I said was stupid,” “I’m a failure,” and “It’s my fault he’s in a bad mood,” are indeed turned inward and, to others, the depressed person may even appear to be self-absorbed.
During those three weeks of the bake sale, my thoughts were focused on my friend and her plight. They were focused on buying ingredients, baking, and selling our goodies, not on all of the “dumb things” I did that day.
Motivation Is a By-Product of Helping Others
When you are depressed, even daily tasks can seem difficult. Yet, when motivated to help others, knowing that there’s significant meaning to what you’re doing, it’s easier to get out of bed, take action, and talk to others. You begin to find a sense of purpose, helping you both cope with depression and feel more confident.
During the bake sale, I was barely able to wait until my daughter arrived home from school to begin. Driven by my sense of purpose, I was motivated and this motivation spilled over into other areas of my life.
Helping Others Allows for Social Interaction
When you are depressed, you may tend to isolate yourself from others. Excessive social isolation can make depression worse.1
While once agoraphobic, I still have some social anxiety. However, feeling empowered to speak on behalf of my friend, I was less socially anxious to speak with neighbors. I also interacted with other kind-hearted individuals who wanted to help. These positive social interactions have given me confidence and have sparked a couple of new friendships.
I want to challenge you to help others — for their sake and for yours. If you take me up on this challenge or are just thinking about it, please let me know by leaving a comment. I would love to hear your ideas and how you are choosing to make the world a better place.
1Isolation. (2015, July 3). Retrieved October 23, 2017.
Sedas, M. (2017, October 26). Helping Others Helps Ease Depression, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, June 19 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2017/10/helping-others-can-help-with-depression