Every day, thousands of antidepressants are consumed. The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 5% of the world’s population suffers from depression. The causes and treatment of depression are varied. Antidepressants certainly are the mainstay for the majority of clinically depressed people.
However, according to recent research there may be another way for people to step out from underneath the dark cloud of depression. Helping others, such as visiting shut-ins, volunteering at a food bank, or donating your time for community service, causes your brain to produce more dopamine -the feel good neurotransmitter, which causes what is called the “helper high.”
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that high school students who volunteered their time in helping younger students, had a drop in blood cholesterol in just two months. The Journal of Psychology and Aging printed that adults over fifty who volunteered more than 200 hours per year, were forty percent less likely to be hypertensive than non-volunteers after the four year study.
Even chronic pain sufferers who helped people that were suffering with the same affliction, were reported in the Pain Management Nursing Magazine to have less pain and discomfort as a result of their efforts to help others.
A team of sociologists who tracked 2000 people over a five year period, found that those who described themselves as very happy, were volunteering at least 5.8 hours a month.
There is an old saying that states, “Give and it shall be given to you.” Our tendency is to focus on our need: “Who is going to look after me?” I am convinced from personal experience and from being a catalyst in helping thousands of others, that there is a personal God who is committed to our need at a deeper level than we can imagine. Our walls of self-protection, self-fulfillment and self-determination hinder us from seeing the good that He desires to bring.
Some thoughts to stimulate our journey as a helper
“Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person.”
Robert Ingersoll reminded us that “we rise by lifting others.”
“To make a difference in someone’s life you don’t have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful or perfect. You just have to care.” Mandy Hale
Others are just as needy as you
We tend to think, “I’m the only person who feels this way.” Remember, the person who appears to have it all together may be falling apart on the inside. I was working with two psychiatrists in a sexual abuse case. The court assigned the father to me and the abused daughter to the office of two psychiatrists. After a meeting where we discussed the case, one of the psychiatrists asked if I could meet with him for coffee sometime. Two weeks later I phoned his office to follow up on his request. The receptionist said, “Didn’t you know, he committed suicide last week.” He appeared to have it together but inside was falling apart.
Allow your need to alert you to the need of others
A young fellow was raised in the midst ofpoverty.Inspiteofhiscircumstances he worked hard to earn enough to buy a coveted basketball hoop. With considerable creativity and hard work, he built a backboard and found a way to have it installed at regulation height. He invited his friends to join him after school to “shoot baskets.” As he approached his home, one of his friends pointed to his house and said, “Who in earth lives in that trashed out place?” He resolved that he would never again be put in that place of shame. The drive to overcome his past lead to a failed marriage, broken relationships and deep inner turmoil. In climbing outofhispithewasabletoseethata strong work ethic, frugality and wise stewardship were qualities that his home circumstance had built into him. Furthermore, these qualities were actually the foundation for his success in his career. In the end he could see that his need was the means of alerting him to the need of others.
There are multitudes of stories that I could relate where people have allowed their pain to become a lens through which they identify the needs of others. We all have the choice, we can either allow our hurt to trap us in the cave of victimhood or we can rise above that hurt and see the need of the one who did the hurting.
I like this quote by an unknown person, “When you dig another out of their troubles you find a place to bury your own.” That’s the grave diggers secret!