Giving as Healing

A tool for enhancing your mental health.

Posted Jun 02, 2020

Source: Pixabay

After a talk by famed psychiatrist Karl Menninger, an audience member asked what to do about a patient who felt a nervous breakdown coming on. Everyone expected Menninger to recommend drugs or in-depth therapy. Instead, he suggested, "Leave your house, find someone in need, and do something to help that person.”

Indeed, my clients and I have found that giving can be healing. That may be especially important today. The double-whammy of the COVID-19 lockdown and racial roiling is making many people sadder, angrier, or more anxious. For example, a Statista analysis of government statistics finds a major spike in anxiety and depression.

Of course, everyone chooses to give differently, but here are a few ideas to spur your thinking:

  • Do something for neighbors without their knowing it. For example, toss the newspaper from the sidewalk onto their doorsteps. More generous: How about doing a task your neighbor would appreciate, for example, pulling the weeds from his or her front lawn?
  • Do some pro-bono work. For example, mental or physical health professionals might see some more clients for free.
  • Put a flower on someone’s doorstep, anonymously or not.
  • Write a handwritten note to someone who’d appreciate it. Maybe say why you appreciate them.
  • Donate to a charity that the recipient would approve of.
  • Give a guilty-pleasure food. Maybe even cook or bake something.
  • If the person has told you that s/he’s struggling with anxiety or stress, give a subscription to a stress/anxiety app, for example, Sanvello or the free Mindshift.
  • Give a blank book for journaling. Journaling can be a potent tool for personal growth. It’s empowering because the agency resides completely in the writer.

Unless you are lacking in the material basics, receiving a gift of “stuff” can feel superfluous, even annoying: “I don’t need that but I better say and act like I like it.” But when we give, we feel virtuous, helpful. Plus, the process of giving can distract us from our woes and perhaps remind us that others are in worse shape. That can evoke a sense of calm gratitude.

Whether or not you’re religious, the Bible may well be wise in asserting, “Better to give than to receive.”

I read this aloud on YouTube.