Everyone feels down from time to time, especially emotional eaters. We may try to do some fun activities or take some quiet time to help ourselves feel better. Unfortunately, sometimes we also binge. As emotional eaters, we tend to go to food first when we feel down. However, we can make healthier choices to bring ourselves back up again without turning too food.
One surefire way to feel better quickly is to reach out to someone else that needs help. Whatever problems that have you feeling stressed and overwhelmed will quickly dissipate because being in service to someone else changes your perspective and your energy.
What does “being in service” mean to you? To many people, the word service implies servitude: that one person benefits from another that is in a subservient position. The pure intention of service is different: it means contributing to the welfare of others. It’s the sharing of talents, time, energy, wisdom, smiles… with no expectation of return. Just because it feels good.
Giving Leads To Receiving
You don’t need a reason to help others. You also don’t need money, or loads of free time. You just need the intent to make someone’s day brighter. That’s it. Simple, right?
Ancient wisdom says that the more you give, the more you receive. This is particularly true whenever you feel you’re in need. Be it money, love, attention, help… the best way to get what you want, and fill whatever void that makes you hurt, is to give.
Giving is an act of love. Love is a cycle of giving and receiving. In whatever way you give love, every loving act will come back to you.
So it doesn’t matter what you give… to feel better, what matters is that you give.
7 Hands-On Ways To Be In Service
What are some things you can do to be in service to others? Here are 7 ways you can help. Aim for giving 10%, whether it’s time, effort, things, or money.
- Volunteer. Opportunities are plentiful in every community. A great start is offering companionship to abandoned and lonely elders at the local senior center.
- Clean out your closet. With over 500,000 homeless in the USA, many of whom sleep on the streets, there’s a big need for clothing, especially winter clothes, sleeping bags, boots, and blankets that can help people survive cold weather.
- Clean up the neighborhood. Organize a roadside trash pickup. Inspire beautification efforts by sprucing up your own home with fresh paint and flowers. If you rent, add cheer with potted plants in your windows.
- Give someone a compliment and make their day. Feeling invisible is hard. Being noticed in a kind way can be transformational.
- Help your neighbors. Offer to mow the lawn. Bring a ‘single’ pet over for a playdate with your pooch. Bring a hot meal. Shovel a driveway. Or just sit with them and have a conversation.
- Give to charity that touches your heart. Every little bit counts.
- Mentor a local kid. “It takes a village to raise a child” and in this day of dual working parents, kids can benefit from your wisdom and experience.
4 Ways to Help Virtually
Thanks to the Internet, there are cool apps to help virtually:
- Kindly is an app where you can offer an anonymous compassionate ear to someone who needs to talk.
- uCiC (You See I See) is location-based photo assistance app that gives people a visual in real time before they arrive.
- Be My Eyes is an app that connects sighted volunteers with blind people.
- YelpOut is a crowd-sourced app that enables users to assist strangers nearby.
The Science Behind Service
In a study published in the Journal of Social Psychology, participants took a survey measuring life satisfaction. Then researchers randomly assigned the 86 participants to one of three groups:
- Group 1, instructed to perform a daily act of kindness for the next 10 days.
- Group 2, instructed to do something new each day for the next 10 days.
- Group 3, the control group, received no instructions.
After 10 days, the participants were asked to complete the life satisfaction survey again. Groups 1 and 2 experienced a significant boost in happiness while Group 3 reported no change. The findings suggest that as little as 10 days of good deeds and novelty make people happy—and researchers suggest linking the two by varying the kinds of service you perform.
Another study, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies suggests a deeper and long-term effect on happiness. Half of the 51 participants were asked to recall a time they spent $20-$100 on themselves. The rest were asked to recall the last time they spent $20-$100 on someone else. All participants completed a survey that measured overall happiness.
Then, the researchers gave each participant a small sum of money and asked to spend the money in whichever way made them happiest: to spend it on themselves however they liked, or spend it on someone else, however they liked. Participants’ choices were kept anonymous in case anyone felt pressured to be altruistic.
The study found:
- People reported feeling greater happiness when they spent money on someone else than when they spent money on themselves.
- Participants who remembered past altruism were more inclined to repeat the act, suggesting a “positive feedback loop” between kindness and happiness.
Is doing good really better than doing nice things for yourself? Yes. Seeking pleasure pales in comparison to the reward we receive by being in service. University of Rochester psychologist Richard Ryan says, “A lot of times we think that happiness comes about because you get things for yourself, but it turns out that in a paradoxical way, giving gets you more, and I think that’s an important message in a culture that’s pretty often getting messages to the opposite effect.”
Other studies on the connection between service and wellbeing have found:
- Decreased stress and greater happiness. When you’re more focused on others than on your own problems you are less prone to anxiety, depression, and the resulting self-defeating behaviors.
- Increased longevity. Since doing good reduces stress and amplifies wellbeing, people who reported dedicating their lives to others were found to live longer.
- Helper’s high. Yes, this is a thing! It’s the biochemical reward we get when we do good things for others.
- Increased happiness at work. People who focus on being in service are generally more grateful and less dissatisfied with their lives, most notably at work.
Essentially, by helping others, you also help yourself. Helping others generates feelings of compassion, and this positively influences the way you see yourself, too. Ultimately this leads to better choices and better self-care. So take good care of yourself by serving others around you. You’ll all be rewarded with an overabundance of love!