Have you ever helped someone and found yourself feeling a little happier than before? It’s a scientifically proven fact - helping others makes us feel good too.
You might not think so, but small acts of kindness, also known as altruism, can help you in your recovery journey. Find out how here.
What Is Altruism?
Simply put, altruism is all about putting others first and acting selflessly. It could be as simple as giving a gift without any expectations or helping someone out with a chore.
The Power of Giving Back in Recovery
Substance abuse leaves a long-lasting impact. Even once you’re in recovery, you’ll have to face up to past mistakes and understand how your actions have hurt others. You’ll also need to learn to forgive yourself.
Aside from the emotional and mental effects of drug abuse, you can expect to encounter withdrawal symptoms in rehab. All these factors can sometimes make it difficult to focus on getting better, let alone helping others. However, as noted above, altruism is a powerful tool in recovery.
Why, you ask? We explain below.
Improves Mental Health
Helping others helps us. Whenever you make someone else feel good, your brain instantly releases endorphins that give you that pleasurable feeling.
A decades-long study conducted by Maria Pagano proved that altruism positively impacts mental health, indicating that it increases feelings of wellbeing and reduces stress among individuals. After all, when you’re feeling good, you’re more likely to stick to sobriety and avoid relapse.
It’s also worth remembering that helping others is a form of social interaction. In addition to boosting your happiness, you’ll also be building a support network that you can make use of both inside and outside of rehab.
Provides a Sense of Purpose and Accomplishment
Helping others offers a sense of accomplishment. Although you may have many goals to achieve during your recovery, simple acts of kindness are easy to achieve. They will also help give you a purpose.
Overcoming addiction can seem frightening. After all, it was your life. When you’re suddenly stripped of the one thing that was important to you, you might start to feel like you lack a sense of direction. Helping those around you will help you see the power of recovery through others, making it easier to stick to your goals.
Sets the Stage for the ‘New You’
During active addiction, you’re a different person. Things that once interested you no longer do, and you might have pushed family and friends away in a bid to hide your addiction from them. Now that you’re in recovery, you’ll probably want to rebuild yourself and the image you created throughout the height of your addiction.
By helping others and putting them before yourself, you will be able to set the stage for the new you. Not only will this give you a renewed purpose, but it will be visible proof to others that you’re making positive changes.
Practicing altruism in recovery
Now that you understand what altruism is and its benefits, you may find yourself wondering how you can practice it throughout your recovery.
There are several different ways to practice altruism in recovery, and we have shared a few suitable options below.
Attend the Twelve-Step Program
It’s easy enough to give a gift to a stranger or lend them a helping hand, but what happens when it comes to already established relationships? Practicing altruism, especially if the relationship is strained, can be difficult.
Going through the twelve-step program will push you to recognize your mistakes and make amends with those you have hurt. You might not think so, but making peace is a form of altruism. This is because you’re offering an olive branch to someone without any expectation. Because they could ignore you or reject you, it’s a selfless act.
In addition to having the opportunity to make amends, attending a twelve-step program group will enable you to connect with others on a similar journey. In doing so, you can build a support network.
Since much of the twelve-step program is group-based, you’ll be provided with the perfect setting to practice altruism. As well as giving you space to be more generous with others, the twelve steps will also help you stick to sobriety. You won’t just be learning how to give up your addiction; you’ll also be learning how to accept yourself and start developing healthier habits.
A 2019 study proved this point, indicating that individuals who participate in the twelve-step program enjoy an overall better quality of life than those who don’t.
Be Open to Listening to Others
Rehab provides the perfect opportunity to listen to others. As well as attending group therapy, you could make an active effort to forge friendships with others. Instead of just focusing on your own problems, give others a chance to open up. You don’t even need to offer advice - listening is just as effective.
Volunteer Your Services
It’s a no-brainer, but volunteering is a great way of putting altruism into action. Just because you’re in rehab or recovery doesn’t mean you have to focus your efforts there. Pick something you’re passionate about and get involved in the cause.
For example, if you love animals, you might enjoy helping out at a local animal shelter or horse ranch. Not only will the act of altruism give you a boost of happiness, but you’ll also be doing something you love.
The road to sobriety isn’t always easy, and sometimes you’ll face challenges. However, getting out of your bubble and putting your attention on others is a great way of focusing your mind on something other than your problems. It will also make it easier to forge friendships and lay the right foundations to begin your new sober life.