Guest post by Pamela Zuber

Since March 2020, life has been challenging.
Charity is needed more than ever, and people are rising to the occasion.

While charity helps the people who receive it, people who donate can also benefit. It can improve their mental health in several ways.

Donating to and working with charities can:

Provide purpose and meaning

Donating your time to charity can restore a sense of purpose and meaning. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, respondents who said that their lives had meaning reported higher cognitive functioning skills and better mental and physical health scores.

Activate feel-good hormones

Speaking of mental health, our charitable acts can lead to mental and physical changes.

Being kind can spur our bodies to produce oxytocin, a hormone also produced during sex, childbirth, and breastfeeding.

Oxytocin can lower the blood pressure. It can also make us more friendly, generous, and trusting. These traits can make us feel better and strengthen our social bonds.

Expand our social circle

In fact, socialization is another good reason to give back.

If we’re donating goods and services, we’re interacting with the people receiving them or the charities that are sponsoring them. Even if we’re donating virtually, we might be emailing and texting others throughout the process.

Socialization can improve our cognitive skills and memory in addition to fighting loneliness and depression.

Shift the attention away from ourselves

Meeting with others can be fun and provide health benefits.

But it might also be challenging, especially for people with social anxiety. Charity work provides something for people to talk about, shifting the attention away from themselves and onto the tasks at hand.

Working with charities is one way to distract our minds and stop self-defeating thoughts.

Inspire others

When we volunteer our time and goods and work with others, we’re helping people in different ways.

This assistance can be contagious. People on the receiving end of kind gestures may be inspired to behave kindly toward others themselves.

It’s common for people to receive help from charities, and when their circumstances change, then help others in turn.

Spend time in healthy ways

Our circumstances might also change if we’re recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction.

Quitting drugs or alcohol improves our health, but it can also change our lives in profound ways. If we’ve accustomed to spending our time searching for and using alcohol or drugs, we could be at a loss when we stop.

Spending time on charitable pursuits can keep our bodies and brains busy. They can provide pursuits that are as distracting as they are helpful.

Boost our self-esteem

By donating to and working with charities instead of using harmful substances or engaging in other destructive pursuits, we’re doing something good for ourselves while we’re doing good for others.

Kind actions can help us feel proud of ourselves and boost our self-esteem. This higher self-esteem can reinforce our decision to continue taking care of ourselves and keep working with charities.

Instead of participating in harmful cycles of addiction and self-loathing, we can create a reciprocal relationship of charity work and positive self-esteem.

Assist mental health organizations and initiatives

Do you want to contribute to organizations and initiatives that promote mental health? Consider visiting these sites for more information about how to help:

Active Minds - Active Minds is an organization that addresses young adults and their mental health. A presence on more than 600 school campuses, it serves over 1.9 million students with its advocacy, campaigns, events, and other acts.

Closegap - Closegap assists children by providing safety and healthy attachment through its secure digital spaces, intervention, and timely support.

National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health - The National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health features services, tools, resources, and support for youth who have behavioral, emotional, and mental health challenges.

Project BEE - Project BEE provides emergency shelter, food, and job assistance for men, women, and children in addition to addressing their housing situations.

Giving back benefits charitable organizations, people who use their services, and the people affiliated with them. It can create a ripple effect that can have a positive impact on our mental health and so much more.

A little kindness truly goes a long way.

About the author: Pamela Zuber is a writer and editor with Lincoln Recovery who enjoys writing about science and medicine, mental health, human rights, gender issues, and several other topics.

Sources - Finding Meaning Could Improve Your Health - The Science of Kindness - Mayo Clinic Minute: The Benefits of Being Socially Connected - Trick Your Brain to Stop Worrying and Overthinking - Kindness Health Facts - What Happens in Rehab? - Kindness and Improving Self-Esteem