How many people do you care for? Do you have close family or friends that you feel a strong sense of love and responsibility to? Are you in a profession with caregiving in its job description? Do you volunteer regularly or donate to charity? You need these things to stay emotionally stable–whether you realize it or not!
However you choose to care, you’re doing yourself and your brain a huge favor! Believe it or not, the act of caring is perfect for your mental health. But how is that possible? Is that really true? To answer those questions, here are 12 ways caring for someone keeps you emotionally stable.
1. You Feel Valued
Caring for someone typically results in that person’s appreciation. You can feel and see the value that your actions provide, and as you grow closer to the person you’re taking care of, you, just as you are, are also more loved and valued.
Sometimes, in a world rife with expectations and pressures, it’s nice to remember that you, as you are, matter to the people around you. Caring for these people reminds you even more than you are important, and you can make a difference in someone’s life, even in seemingly simple and innocuous ways.
2. Doing Kind Things Is Rewarding
The brain has a series of processes that define what we consciously or unconsciously view as a reward. For example, your brain probably lights up its pleasure centers when you eat a sweet treat or receive certain praise. As it turns out, caring for others actually activates these same locations!
This means that you can get the same fulfillment you receive from unhealthy habits just by caring for someone. It can take a while and some effort before this effect is felt fully, but it certainly works, and that can help you feel more emotionally stable.
3. Positive Feelings Are Contagious
Smiling itself is already contagious, and you’re much more likely to smile when you’re around people who are also smiling. This means that you make them smile when you care for others, which also makes you smile!
But beyond just that, positive thinking and emotions, in general, are quite contagious. You’ve probably noticed how easily you imitate someone’s actions when you’re paying attention to them, and science says that humans do the same with feelings.
Basically, if you can tell someone is feeling happy, you’re also more likely to feel happy. When you care for others, you’re giving them great emotions and feelings that will make their way back around to you. It’s a wonderful way to live!
4. It Teaches Empathy
Empathy is a crucial part of emotional intelligence. It allows you to put yourself in the shoes of others, appreciate their experiences, and understand where they’re coming from. It’s an instrumental skill that allows you to become a better person – and a wiser one.
When you have more empathy, you’re able to gain many benefits beyond the ones you would have expected to come from the simple act of caring. Here are some examples:
· Better Communication Skills
Empathy reduces misunderstandings by allowing you to see things from other people’s points of view. It also allows you to communicate in ways that are more likely to be understood by others.
· Lowered Anxiety And Depression
Those with high levels of empathy are better at managing their emotions, as they have better insight into their feelings and others’ feelings. The ability to resonate with the people around you can also reduce the severity of secondhand stress, allowing you to separate that stress from yourself.
· A Healthier Environment
Any social environment devoid of empathy is doomed to fail, as everyone will be too self-focused and won’t be able to see others accurately. High empathy allows you to form bonds with people you can tell good at heart, and it makes you a good part of these groups with your equal levels of care towards others.
5. It Promotes Reciprocity
Although you shouldn’t help others solely to receive favors in return or for the sake of repaying someone who’s helped you, the fact remains that most studies agree that it’s not uncommon for human beings to be motivated by reciprocity.
But what does that have to do with emotional stability? The most obvious answer is this: you caring for others means that others will be more inclined to perform their own acts of compassion, both towards you and to others in general. For example:
- Bringing food to get-togethers increases the chance that others who attend will bring their own food, making a merrier experience for all involved.
- Caring about someone in their time of need will increase their chances of being there for you in your time of need, as they remember how kind you were to them.
- Being compassionate towards a person means they are likely to think of you more positively and be kinder when perceiving or interacting with you.
6. It Gives You A More Positive Life Perspective
When you actively care for others, you gain new insight into life. You’ll meet others who also care about those around them and will feel the benefits of being cared for in return. All of these things combined can increase your positive thinking about the world, shifting your perspective. For example, you may:
- Realize that there are plenty of selfless people in the world
- Reduce skepticism regarding acts of kindness or care
- Develop a purer, more genuine way of thinking about goals and everyday efforts
- Be more likely to accept kindness from others, as you learn that all people need someone to care for them sometimes
- Focus more energy on doing positive things involving caring for others
- Regard your friendships and relationships in a brighter way
- Feel more hopeful in general about life and the way people behave
- See that the world isn’t as bleak as you originally thought, as small acts of care can make a huge difference
- Realize the significance of seemingly minor kind actions on the people you care for
When you care for someone else, you have to stop focusing on yourself and your troubles for a little while. For people who struggle with stress and anxiety, this can be helpful, as it removes focus from personal worries and sometimes allows for a subconscious re-evaluation of those worries.
Of course, if you’re stressed out by the responsibility to care for someone, this won’t work the same way. But in most cases, taking the focus off of your issues can give you a break from them so you can revisit them with more positive thinking and a fresher perspective later. You get renewed energy from the “rest” that will allow you to better power through them and stay emotionally stable!
8. You Feel Like You’re Righting Wrongs
We’ve talked about how seeing happy people can make you happy. Unfortunately, this also happens the other way around – seeing sad people can make you sad, too. The more familiar you are with someone and the closer the bond you share, the more likely you will be susceptible to “catching” their emotions, whether positive or negative.
But there’s a silver lining here. When you do something caring to help someone in your life feel better, your brain overlaps the act of kindness with yourself. You’ll get the accomplished feeling from “righting” something negative, and you’ll also feel the relief and happiness that comes with the easing of the negative burden carried by the person you care for.
9. You Can Feel More Motivated
The act of caring can often involve a significant amount of emotional demands. In excess, these can certainly harm mental health and positive thinking. But on a moderate or even reasonably professional level, it can improve your motivation!
A study found that professional caregivers actually experience better vitality and motivation when they face day-level emotional demands from those they care for. This often improved their emotional regulation abilities and even carried forward to their personal lives outside of the workplace!
10. It Solidifies A Kind Identity
A majority of people think of themselves as kind individuals. As such, performing caring acts can help to further solidify that identity, according to studies. You might:
- Feel proud of yourself for living up to your self-perception
- Perceive yourself as a better person, allowing you to improve your self-perception
- Feel more eager to continue performing these caring acts, forming a cycle of kindness and self-esteem
- Be more satisfied with the way you spend your time and energy
11. It Keeps You Physically Healthy
People often forget how much health anxiety can impact your emotional state. Health problems can cause financial problems, too, which add even more to the stress that comes from being in poor health, to begin with.
Research indicates that those who perform volunteer work have a 33% lower chance of experiencing negative health than those who don’t actively perform kind acts. Specific health improvements to stay emotionally stable include:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Better cardiovascular health
- Lowered risk of dementia
- Better immunity
- Longer lifespan
12. You Get To Connect
When you care for someone, you’re deepening a social bond and forging a stronger connection with that person. Kind acts alone are already known to help create closer relationships, and it’s commonly known that fostering better relationships, if they’re healthy, leads to improved positive thinking and mood.
In other words, caring deepens a bond that helps make you feel happier. Even caring through indirect ways, like participating in charity events or volunteering time at a non-profit, helps you forge bonds with your fellow volunteers. Combined with the knowledge that you’re helping people, this can all boost your mood!
Caring means compassion, and compassion means happiness. Though the simple act of caring can’t completely heal sadness, it can certainly help, and it can make the difference between emotional stability and a lack thereof.
It’s not always easy to care for someone, and it goes without saying that caring too much and receiving no similar care from anyone can result in emotional burnout. But, for the most part, the act of caring is fantastic for your mental health and can keep you emotionally stable from multiple angles and on many levels!