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Last Updated on August 7, 2019

10 Ways Helping Others Will Improve Your Life

10 Ways Helping Others Will Improve Your Life

It’s easy to focus all your time and energy on what you have and what you want. That self-focus can increase when you’re faced with personal or professional challenges. You put your head down, think about what needs to get done, and work harder or faster to get through a rough patch. You might cut yourself off from friends and the community, saying you’ll get back to them when things take a turn for the better.

But what happens when you take the opposite approach? When you reach out to help others, even when you’re not sure precisely what you have to give? This can take the form of volunteering with a local charity or simply helping a colleague at work when you don’t need to.

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston Churchill

A growing deluge of research shows that helping and giving can make you feel connected, grow in new ways and even live longer. Here are 10 ways helping others can also help you.

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1. Helping makes you feel connected.

By engaging with other individuals and communities, you feel more connected to other people. Humans are social by nature–which means we need relationships for optimal psychological health. Connecting with others fulfills a need we all have but sometimes ignore. Beyond just the one-on-one connections, helping address a bigger issue or cause (like a charity that aims to reduce homelessness, or improve nutrition in low-income children, or provide greater access to education) can make you feel like a needed part of the world.

2. Helping can build new skills.

Over time, helping others can help you build new skill sets — especially if your activities lie outside your wheelhouse. Say you’re a bank teller and you volunteer in a completely different area: on an event planning committee for a local charity. You might already be good at managing people, but by engaging in this work you’ll build new skills in juggling competing timelines, working with vendors, and marketing.

3. Helping makes you grateful.

Helping others facing their own challenges can put yours into perspective. This is particularly true if your ‘problems’ are small by comparison. It’s easy to take things like health, shelter or family for granted until you spend time with people living in profoundly difficult situations. Use these opportunities to cultivate gratitude and inspire you to make the most of what you have.

4. Helping creates new relationships — and improves the ones you have.

Helping in the community can get you out of your usual social circles and introduce you to new people. Many of these individuals may become friends, mentors or colleagues. Besides leading to new relationships, being generous can have spillover affects that benefit your current relationships. When your helping mindset results in better interactions with your significant other, family and co-workers, everyone benefits.

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5. Helping makes you live longer.

This in itself should be a major motivator! Various studies have found that the ‘warm fuzzy’ feeling we get by helping has real physiological effects — and they pay off in the long-term. In particular, those who ‘help’ consistently tend to live longer than those who don’t; and they report lower blood pressure, less depression, lower stress and greater happiness while doing it.

6. Helping can expand your identity.

Did anyone ever say ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’? Psychology has shown that when you focus too myopically on one dream or goal or dimension of your life, setbacks in that area can be huge blows. Having a multi-faceted identity — for instance, as a manager, a parent, a community member, a volunteer — can enrich your sense of self and give you more areas of joy. And, when setbacks happen in one area, they’re not nearly as debilitating.

7. Helping builds your reputation as a giver.

When others start to see you as someone who’s generous and who makes a contribution beyond their immediate sphere, more people come to you with requests. This is really a good thing — as many requests are opportunities in disguise. Over time, being seen as a consistent ‘helper’ can open new personal and professional doors you never could have imagined.

8. Helping boosts your self-esteem.

And really, who can’t use an extra dose confidence in these unpredictable times? By truly helping — making others better off through our interventions — you can see yourself having impact (what researchers call ‘self-efficacy’). This means you’re more likely to have faith in your ability to succeed in other situations. (Maybe now you can run that half-marathon, or apply for that promotion!)

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Researchers have found that confidence in and of itself can be a big predictor of success. So little wins achieved through helping others can build on each other over time to produce bigger and better results in your life.

9. Not helping can stress you out.

Not helping when you know you should can actually lead to greater stress. Researchers have used experiments to determine that being stingy drives the release of cortisol, which is a physiological sign of stress. So on top of not getting the benefits of helping, by abstaining from helping you might even further taxing your system.

10. Helping builds your resume.

From a practical standpoint, helping activities usually generate experiences and skills to put on your resume. This can directly contribute to your efforts to land other volunteer or professional roles. It also shows you’re a caring, well-rounded person who can contribute in a variety of settings.

So if you’re still debating whether it’s worth taking some time out of your busy schedule to help others, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’!

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It’s ok to start small so you don’t feel over committed. You can easily grow your helping over time as your situation, capacity and abilities allow. But by starting today, you can get a jump start on feeling better, living longer, growing your skills and enriching your quality of life.

Featured photo credit: lmulej via pixabay.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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