Volunteering can improve your mood

July 29, 2014

 Sometimes when I am feeling down, nothing helps me more than to show concern for someone else. It gets me out of my head for a while. Helping others gives me a break from my troubles.


This is not to say I ignore my problems. It’s just that taking the focus off myself and caring for another person who is struggling puts things in perspective.


Performing an act of kindness does not have to be a big deal. It could be something simple, like letting another shopper go ahead of you in the checkout line. Gandhi said, “Lose yourself in the service of others.”


The point is to change your perspective. Instead of thinking of the situation as a problem, think of it as a challenge. It’s not a permanent crisis; it’s a setback. It’s not a character flaw; it’s an area for improvement.


People who are depressed need to resist the temptation to withdraw from social interaction. It will only cause deeper despair to stay in bed, feeling sorry for themselves and avoiding their problems.


Depression can be a self-centered experience because people in this state of mind focus on their own problems and their own misery. They seldom think of how they can help others.


It is quite common to feel mildly depressed from time to time. As long as you are able to perform daily activities efficiently, it is not debilitating.


However, people who are severely depressed say it feels like they are trapped in a dark tunnel with no way out. This is when professional mental health care is needed.


When people are in a depressed state, they tend to recall sad and painful memories more readily than happy ones, slumping deeper into depression.


This type of negatively charged emotional memory is typical for those suffering from depression.


Just reflect upon your own experience. When you are in a down mood, do you find yourself ruminating on past emotional wounds? Are you only able to recall negative memories? Do you find it difficult—perhaps impossible—to think of positive memories?


The Western approach to dealing with clinical depression is to treat the symptoms with medication. This type of treatment can give you a boost to help you over the hump of depression, but you can become overly reliant on the medication, instead of developing personal coping skills to deal with your emotions.


If you are taking antidepressants and want to stop, discuss it with your doctor first. Abruptly stopping many pharmaceuticals, including antidepressants, can have unpleasant side effects, some of them dangerous.


Behavioral therapy encourages you to keep busy with positive endeavors. It takes your mind off your problems for a while. The disadvantage is that you might use this as a distraction to avoid dealing with problems.


Cognitive therapy emphasizes a careful examination of your thought patterns. You can learn to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. The disadvantage is that positive thoughts alone cannot cure you of major depression when there is a biochemical imbalance.


Some spiritual perspectives suggest you turn your problems over to a higher power. This alleviates some of your worries and can lift your spirits. The negative side is that it can promote passivity as you wait for your deity to rescue you.


Buddhism teaches that depression is like a seed. Do not water that seed and it will not grow. Acknowledge the feelings of depression, and then invite a more pleasant emotion to come to you. This approach combines elements of both cognitive therapy and spirituality.


Today’s Loving Suggestion: Determine if your depressed state is interfering with your ability to function. If so, care enough about yourself to call a competent counselor and make an appointment.


If not, getting out of the house and volunteering your time may be just the thing you need to improve your mood. Pick your favorite organization and enjoy the feeling of helping others. Take positive action today.


If you have followed any of the suggestions in the Sir Rennity feature, I would love to hear your stories. Please email me at zenithcityweekly@yahoo.com. I will keep your letters private unless you request that they be published.

The Sir Rennity feature is intended to provide gentle guidance for your life. These articles hold no intrinsic meaning. You give meaning to them based on the value you place on them, so the words here are meaningless unless you put them into practice.

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