May 1-7th was Mental Health Awareness Week but as a therapist, I’m committed to keep talking about ways to promote mental health and wellness all year long. For this article I’ll be focusing on the tremendous benefits of Giving: Giving Our Time, Giving Gratitude and Giving Back as three ways we can help ourselves while helping others.
1) Giving Our Time
When we look at the problems in the world, they seem daunting. When we look at the rising rates of food insecurity, homelessness, racism, hate crimes and gender-based violence in our own Region, it’s devastating. But giving our time to support people or causes we care about allows us to cultivate hope and feel like we are making a difference because we truly are.
Research has shown that volunteering is good for our physical and psychological health and strengthens a sense of connection and mission among staff. Volunteering can also give us access to organizations and information that can support us later in life. As an undergraduate student, I learned so much while volunteering for the local Sexual Assault Support Centre that has served me over the years. Joining the bowl-a-thon then Fun Run for the Sexual Assault Support Centre of Waterloo Region gave me a healthy way to transform my anger and support my recovery from secondary trauma.
As someone who loves uplifting others, after experiencing the joy of being a Women of Distinction Recipient and seeing the passion of the Cambridge YWCA’s childcare and advocacy staff, it was a full bodied yes when the call for volunteers for this year’s Women of Distinction Event came out. Brainstorming with staff and other volunteers has helped reduce the isolation from working from home and reconnect with my love of collaborating. Taking part in events that celebrate champions in our community is a wonderful way to offset all the bad news and division out there.
Starting my week every Monday as a Reading Coach through the Strong Start program has brought me tremendous joy. I love giving back to the school community and seeing the progress my little buddies are making. There’s no better way to boost your mental health then to spend some one on one with a child.
Have you been feeling lonely or struggling to feel a sense of purpose? Many of our local Social Profit agencies are in desperate need of community members to join their boards or help with events and fundraising initiatives. What causes are you most passionate about? Imagine the benefits of being part of something that makes a positive difference right here in Cambridge.
If you cannot afford to regularly give of your time through volunteer, getting involved in advocacy through phone or email campaigns, writing and sharing petitions or uplifting the work of organizations or people from the global majority are simple, yet much needed ways you can contribute to the greater good.
2) Giving Gratitude
Did you know you can’t feel anxious and grateful at the same time? One way to help combat the stress of rising costs is to focus on the goodness in your life? Taking time to appreciate the things we do have and soak up good experiences helps to reduce our sense of scarcity and negativity bias in our brain.
Feeling down or lonely? Research shows expressing gratitude has benefits for both the giver and receiver. Who are you grateful for? What specifically do you appreciate about them? Reach out to someone you care about or who’s helped you in the past and let them know how much you appreciate them. Has a small business owner or organization had a positive impact in your life recently? Go the extra mile by writing a review, an endorsement or share their content with a special note of thanks. Watch as both your days are brightened.
Research on relationships at home and work both point to the protective factor of creating a culture of appreciation for better mental health and wellbeing. Relationships where partners don’t take each other for granted rank higher in longevity and satisfaction and managers who show appreciation regularly tend to have less staff turnover.
Do you have a regular gratitude practice? Many suggest that starting and ending your day reflecting on at least 3 things or people you are grateful for can have tremendous benefits on mental health and make you more generous.
3) Give Back
In our current economy the need is great. But often we don’t feel like we have enough to give because we are bombarded with messages that we are not enough and we will only be happy if we keep buying. But happiness is an inside job and none of us can feel happy all the time. To support our mental health and our community, we need to take back our worth as our birthright and learn to ride the waves of our emotions rather than trying to bury them in stuff or substances. When we remember we are more than enough and pain and struggle is part of the human experience, we learn to spend more wisely and have more to give back.
Sometimes entitlement or judgement can block us from giving. When we acknowledge our unearned privilege, it’s easier to redistribute our wealth through donations or scholarships. When we realize that most people are not to blame for their current circumstances and are in need of our kindness, not our judgement, it becomes easier to give back. In our acknowledgements, we heal a part of ourselves too.
Maybe you have a talent or product you could donate for silent auctions or to a local shelter or maybe your organization’s values align with the work of a social profit group. Matching employees’ donations or choosing a particular organization to sponsor each year can be a wonderful way to strengthen worker mental health while strengthening the community.
Do you have charities or organizations that you try to give to? Have you given yet this year? If not, could you choose a cause that matters to you and give now, even as little as $5 can make a difference when we all commit to giving back.
Nicole Schiener, RP
Registered Psychotherapist, Certified Canadian Counsellor
Certified Compassion Fatigue Professional
Certified Gottman Educator (Bringing Baby Home)
Peace and Possibility
(226) 507- 8247
“World Peace begins with Inner Peace.”
Located on the Haldimand Tract, land promised to the Haudenosaunee people of the Six Nations, which includes six miles on either side of the Grand River. This territory is the traditional territory of the Neutral, Anishnaabeg and Haudenosaunee Peoples.
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