Think that giving back and self care are two separate things? Think again.
On the surface, giving back and self- care may seem like polar opposites. The act of giving back our time, energy or resources can often seem like it benefits others but leaves us drained. Self-care is often presented as taking time to nurture ourselves and fill our own inspirational and emotional tanks. However, there are several ways that giving back allows us to practice self-care and numerous benefits to be gained.
By caring for others, we practice self-care in at least 7 different ways:
Giving Back Allows You to Get Outside of Your Own Head
When you set out to give back, it takes both mental and physical energy. The tasks and people you’re looking to serve take center stage. For that amount of time, there is a key focus on someone or something else over the 10,000 thoughts and circumstances running through your head and life. It provides a sometimes much needed vacation.
Giving Back Allows You to Feel Joy
If you spend your time, money or energy giving to someone else, you feel their joy. You know that you have helped them to accomplish a goal or enjoy something that they may not have done for themselves. That transfer of energy is powerful and feeds you in return.
Giving Back Encourages You to Learn New Skills
While you might not be learning high tech skills, there is a good chance in the process you will learn something that will benefit you.
When I was in high school, I spent a few afternoons volunteering at the public library. I wanted to be interacting with patrons and scanning books out to them. They wanted me to learn how to shelf read. Shelf reading requires using a library system to put things back in the proper spot and order. I didn’t think that would be helpful to learn. However, when it came time to write college papers and even now when I walk into the library, I use that same skill to track down books quickly. It’s a small skill, but it saves me massive amounts of time.
Some of the skills you learn from giving back could include: problem solving skills, cooking or wrapping food, listening, budgeting skills, or others. It depends on the type of work that you’re doing. However, in some small way, every skill that you develop will come back to help you in some way. Look for it.
Giving Back Gives You a Different Perspective
Giving back naturally allows you time to be around people with different world-views, different beliefs and ways of looking at things. Allow the opportunity to stretch your own mind and thought process to allow for their perspective. You might come up with a solution for a problem that you’re currently facing . You also might find something that you’re really interested in that can become an enjoyable past time or hobby.
You Don’t Know When You’ll Be the One in that Situation
In a past life, I spent years as a shift manager in food services. For the final two years, my focus became developing talent and really taking time to listen to their problems and think of ways to help if I was able to. I wanted a functioning team that supported each other. I also trained whenever possible and focused on building up my team.
In this life, I’ve been working call centers. I don't always have the answer or know how to fix it. I sometimes have people screaming at me for things that I can’t fix or make better. I’m grateful for the help I receive from the upper staff and dispatchers who can help or take over the call.
I’ve been on both sides of a lot of situations- moving, needing help organizing, needing encouragement, etc- where I’m able to give and where I feel like I wish that someone was there for me. I’m sure you have too. It helps to set up karma for a time down the road where we’re going to be there.
Giving Back Allows You to Learn Something About Yourself
No matter how you give back, there’s a chance that if you do it for long enough, you’ll start to have a-ha moments. Maybe you’ll change your thinking about how to solve a problem because you realize that you’ve been looking at it the wrong way.
Maybe you’ll learn that what you’re doing is something that you want to do on a larger scale.
Maybe you’ll create new friends that you hadn’t considered before.
Giving back allows you the opportunity to evaluate your thoughts, feelings and beliefs about different situations. It might also unmask good or bad qualities of your own. It’ll be a process to work through, but you’ll also learn how you respond to something and will change your response.
Giving Back Promotes Gratitude
There are so many ways that giving promotes gratitude. You learn to be thankful that you have much to give, you begin to notice the little things and how much better they make your life.
Gratitude can stem from the lessons that you’re learning or the skills you’re picking up. It can also be just the feeling of being thankful that you spent that time the way that you did.
Become more aware about what you come to acknowledge and be grateful for as you give back. Whether it’s the little things like the smile on someone’s face or the big things like the ability to dream bigger due to someone challenging you.
The process of giving back takes many forms: volunteering, helping out, donating or taking time to encourage someone in need. While it’s easy to question why it’s important as it doesn’t seem to have any benefits to ourselves, it’s crucial. It’s important for those we help but it’s also important for ourselves and our self care and development. It offers a variety of lessons and joy.