How Giving Back to Others is a Gift to Yourself


We all know that giving back is important to the community, but turns out, it is also important for a person's mental health. According to Optum, taking care of your mental health is an important park of living a health and balanced life.

"Giving back to others can provide a number of mental as well as physical benefits. As humans we are hard-wired to help others, and in doing so we fulfill ourselves as well," the company stated in a company article. "Giving back doesn’t have to be a huge gesture or time commitment — even simple actions can go a long way towards benefitting both others and yourself."

Creating community and purpose

Turns out that the act of giving back can help create a send of belonging along with establishing connections. Giving back also gives a chance to create regular social contact and meaningful relationships which can help fight stress, enhance mood, and lower risk of depression.

"When you’re able to help meet a need, it can create feelings of purpose and fulfillment. Doing something you’re good at, like accomplishing something or helping someone in an area of your expertise, can strengthen your sense of self-confidence," the organization stated.

Cultivating gratitude

The company also states that y giving back to others, it can help to remind a person about how much they have to give, and to also be grateful for it. 

"If you’re in a position to be giving, no matter how small, it can make you feel generous and increase awareness that you have things to give," the company stated. "It doesn’t need to be a physical or monetary gift — time, knowledge, or even a passing smile can all go a long way."

According to Optum, even the feeling of gratitude can bring positive benefits towards general well-being. This feeling can help improve mood, bring higher self-esteem, and even create a stronger immune system.

Here are some suggestions and considerations for when you want to give back, according to Optum:

Suggestions for giving back

While volunteering can be a great way to contribute, it certainly isn’t the only way — there are countless other options for giving back. Helping others can take many different forms, once you start keeping an eye out you’ll notice opportunities everywhere.

Practicing kindness and empathy are key parts of giving back. Pay attention to see where you can show compassion on a daily basis. If a friend is struggling can you reach out with a caring phone call, pick their kids up from school, or offer a home-cooked meal?

Seek out opportunities to demonstrate acts of kindness throughout your day. Maybe a stranger needs assistance carrying groceries to their car, a neighbor might be able to use a hand picking up prescriptions, or a family member could benefit from help in the garden. Get creative when it comes to helping out and don’t forget to include causes like animals or the planet that need your care as well.

Are there places in your routine where you can incorporate generosity without much additional work? If you’re cleaning out your house consider donating items you no longer use to charity, or if the grocery store is running a promotion maybe buy extra to give to a local food pantry. Can you make time to swing by a blood drive and donate? Even small gestures like letting a car in during traffic, holding the door open for someone, or expressing gratitude, can make a big difference.

Considerations for volunteering

If you’re interested in volunteering, spend some time thinking about what skills you have and where you’d like to contribute. What are you passionate about? Would you prefer to work in schools with children, or would you rather help out at a nursing home visiting with the elderly? Do you want to spend time with animals, or are you more driven to help the planet by organizing a beach clean-up?

Identifying your talents can help to give you a sense of direction — if you’re great at sports maybe coaching a local team would be a good fit, if you have a background in business could you mentor someone? To find volunteer opportunities touch base with local nonprofits, schools, recreation centers, or any area in particular that interests you.

Charity work can be a stepping stone towards progressing your career and an ideal outlet for gaining experience and learning new skills. Volunteering provides an opportunity for you to try out different industries to see if you like the work. If you’ve been out of the workforce for a while and are looking to begin work again, volunteering can be a helpful bridge towards employment.

When deciding where to volunteer, you’ll want to put your time towards somewhere where it can make the most difference. Do some research on the organization you’re considering and make sure they’re actually helping out in the way they say they are, and have a history of using volunteers effectively. Talk to the organization to understand what your obligations and duties as a volunteer would be. Don’t feel pressured to stick to a position if it doesn’t seem like the right fit, feel free to try different opportunities until you find the one that interests you the most.

When it comes to volunteering, research shows that about two to three hours a week, or around 100 hours per year, provides the most benefits.2 Trying to help out too much can turn giving back into an overwhelming stressor. Make sure to only commit to as much as you can handle, that way you can fully enjoy giving to others, and receiving all the benefits that it brings in return.

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