Lend a hand for a healthy mind

by Phil Mathews | 01 Sep 2023

Helping others can help you

Are you searching for a way to get your mojo back and looking to boost your motivation? Perhaps it might be a good time to give helping others a go. Lend a hand to others and feel benefits to your own wellbeing.

You may well ask yourself, how on earth can helping other people be a good idea for me if I am not in a great place myself at the moment? The answer to this sits in the understanding that our own wellbeing depends on us meeting our own needs in balance and what we can practically do to focus on meeting one of these; our need for Meaning and Purpose.

If we can feel a sense of being needed, have some stretch in the form of an achievable challenge, combined with being part of something bigger than ourselves through being kind or helpful to others, we will naturally find ourselves feeling a stronger sense of Meaning and Purpose from our own lives. You may also never quite know to what extent how setting this example to others through random acts of kindness or volunteering (1), might create ripples that encourage others to do the same (2).

How do we know?

Research can easily be found on various benefits people gain from being kind and helpful to others, from experiencing the pleasure of releasing certain neurotransmitters, to reducing anxiety, lowering stress, and even increasing how long we live (3-5). When we meet our need for Meaning and Purpose, research also points towards an increase in our resilience (6), making us more robust to more easily returning or staying in a place of wellbeing. This defends us well from sliding into experiencing mental health issues when life gets a bit messy.

There is a paradox that being kind and helpful to others, directly gives us significant benefits so long as we maintain this in a balanced way (7).

Seeing the bigger picture

Being helpful or kind to anyone or any animal, rather than just your own kin or your own kind however you might define that, is a great way to broaden your perspective and help look outwards and see the bigger picture, inevitably deepening the meaning that we can get from our lives.

When we start to meet one of our needs more successfully for ourselves, it is not uncommon to notice that our other needs can all start to become more healthily met too. These include Attention, Status, Achievement, and others (8).

How do I know if I’m meeting my needs?

You can test this out for yourself by using Suffolk Mind’s Emotional Needs Audit. See what changes happen as you tread the deliberate path of helping others.

This then helps us use our inner resources more helpfully. Therefore, as strong negative emotions reduce, we can feel more rational and form new positive patterns into our memory, such as ‘helping others makes me feel good’.

Start small

Small changes make a big difference. You don’t have to go to the extreme of doing something every single day to feel the power of kindness (9). Once we notice acts of kindness, we start to see these patterns around us more often and can start to notice how common kindness really is (10).

It is no coincidence that there is broad agreement amongst evolutionary biologists that our success as a species is most accurately referred to as “survival of the kindest”. (11, 12)


1 Suffolk Mind

2 BBC News

3 Mayo clinic

4 Psychology ib

5 Well and good

6 Psychology today

7 The tiny saints

8 mentalhealth.org

9 BBC ideas

10 BBC programmes

11 Youtube

12 Dr David Hamilton

Remember, volunteering can help meet your need for Achievement too.

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by Phil Mathews
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