There are many healthier and happier alternatives. One of these alternatives, which is simple but HUGE in its force, is to "get out of ourselves" by getting involved in the lives of others who are less fortunate. What does that look like? We help feed and clothe the poor; we help build houses for those who have no homes; we visit the homes for the aged; we read to children in hospitals...and all manner of such beautiful things.
When I was the Executive Director of The Floating Hospital, which provided all sorts of health, educational and recreational activities for the poor in New York City, I relied on the help, not only of a paid staff, but a large number of volunteers. These beautiful beings provided money, services, time, energy, love, and caring to help those less fortunate than themselves.
Understand that not all of these volunteers were the moneyed of the community. I met "poor helping poor", people giving to their community in ways that touched the Soul. They taught me so much about what makes life worth living. And what truly does make life worth living is not only finding love, caring and all good things for one's self. No, it's also about giving love, caring and all good things to others.
It's not that getting isn't wonderful...it is. And learning how to take with gratitude is a sign of an open heart and brings us much joy. But giving has its own special rewards. It is the pathway to finding and increasing our feelings of self-confidence and worth. And in the end, it is just these feelings that we are all yearning for during those times when our lives seem so empty and unhappy.
At The Floating Hospital, I saw firemen, policemen, society women, doctors, college students and so many other segments of society all showing up to distribute lunches, play with the children, wash the dishes, sing songs, create new programs, do office work, raise money and whatever else was needed. And in so doing, they discovered the incredible feeling of well-being inherent in the act of giving. How lucky they were and how lucky were those they served!
One of the people who often volunteered was my daughter, Leslie. She began learning at the age of ten what it meant to give of herself. She stuffed envelopes, washed dishes and served coffee with the best of them. And she carried this learning into adulthood. One of her ways of getting out of herself today is to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a wonderful organization that builds houses for people who can't afford to do it themselves. I have photographs of her happily hammering nails on the roof of a house-in-progress. She talks about her feeling of joy and healthy pride when the keys to that finally-completed house are handed over to a family who never before had a decent place in which to live. In many other ways, Leslie has never stopped her practice of getting out of herself to find more of herself.
Ely, a friend of mine who had a stroke, was able to feel blessed and abundant every time he volunteered, wheelchair and all, to help cook in a restaurant that served free meals to the homeless. He knew he counted and had much to give to the community, despite his stroke. And it was his acts of giving that always made his spirits soar. As a general rule, to know that we count is one of the greatest boosts to our morale that we can ever experience. By the way, some of us volunteer at holiday time, which is wonderful. But those who get the most out of volunteering are those who make it a regular part of their lives...not just a holiday special.
You might be wondering why volunteering makes you feel so good about yourself? As I see it, volunteering takes you out of your Lower Self, the negative part of who you are, and elevates you to your Higher Self...the best of who you are...the part of you that is loving, powerful and abundant. You can understand why, when you find your way from the Lower Self to the Higher Self, your experience of life is transformed in a magnificent way.
So here is what I suggest: Any time you feel yourself in a depressed and unhappy state, immediately get up and get out to help the world in any way you can. And as you make helping others a part of your everyday life, any feelings of depression and unhappiness will appear less and less and less...and feelings of joy, gratitude and all good things will appear more and more and more. It works every time.
See, I told you the answer was simple, but HUGE in its force.