Lend a Helping Hand to Find your Own Happiness

"An old song from a Hindi movie, sung by the late Manna Dey, went as follows: Tum besahara ho to kisi ka sahara bano", meaning, if you are in a helpless situation or condition, become the helping-hand for someone else.
Illogical? Or wise?

On the face of it, such advice seems counter-intuitive. How can one help another person when one is feeling sad or helpless? Yet, a little analysis reveals its wisdom. When one decides to lend a helping hand to another, two things happen. First, one is able to see that pain is universal. There is an immediate sense of empathy and inter-connectedness with others and this leads to a better perspective on one's own unhappiness in life. Second, helping others allows the person to come out of self-pity and hopelessness, and feel one is useful. Whether or not the act is actually useful is secondary - the perception it creates in the doer's mind is significant.

Why helping others is good for you:
Studies at Yale University, among other places, shows that helping others leads to lower feelings of stress in the minds of the helpers.

So doing good to others actually is good for the doer of the good deed! Good deeds have been linked to a calmer mind, lower levels of stress-hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, and a feeling of well-being. Over time, one’s self-image and emotional resilience improve.

The list:
Helping others need not necessarily mean going out of one’s way to do great things. To paraphrase Mother Teresa, “We all can’t do great things, but we can all do little things with great love.” Some of the easy-to-do deeds are:

  • Call a friend who is grieving, worried or lonely; listen with empathy. Resist the urge to offer immediate solutions.

  • Cook a dish for an elderly neighbor who lives alone.

  • Offer to step in for a task for a super-busy colleague, at work.

  • Volunteer your time and help, one day a month, at a local orphanage, old-age home, or similar such place.

  • When visiting the supermarket, think of any items that could be picked up for a house-bound or elderly or busy relative, friend or neighbor, to save them from making a trip.

  • Send an e-card or a simple message to dear ones who are facing tough times, to convey your good wishes.

  • Keep a packet of biscuits, some candy, or a fruit to offer the underprivileged children found on the streets of the city.

  • Pray for the well-being of others.

Don’t wait for the perfect moment:
All too often, one avoids good deeds by focusing on one’s own troubles. The above thoughts indicate that one need not wait for life to be perfect before reaching out to help someone. Further, doing so, causes one’s own pain to appear easier to deal with. So ask yourself: In what way can I bring a smile to someone’s face today?

Speaking Tree: Lend a Helping Hand to Find your Own Happiness, February 23, 2016

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