By Dr Phang Cheng Kar (M.D.)
I was bestowed with the Nalanda Award in Social Action & Responsibility last year. It was in recognition of my voluntary service in promoting good mental health in the community.
Many people often ask me, “How can you find time for voluntary service despite your busy schedule?” I can find time because it gives me happiness.
How does doing voluntary service create happiness? This is what happens when we help others:
- We often discover that others are also facing similar problems as ours. This sense of the universality of suffering, “I see, I am not the only one with such a problem,” helps to buffer the gravity of our problems in life.
- We often realize that there are many people with worse situations than ours. The realization gives us a sense of perspective, “I am lucky, it could have been worse.” That awareness relieves our pain.
- We are indirectly focusing on our strength. We discover, “I am not useless. I can contribute something to the community.” Our self-esteem and confidence become stronger than before.
- We automatically become less preoccupied with our problems, especially those that we have attempted in vain to solve. By channeling our energy for the happiness of others, we avoid inflating and worrying too much of our problems.
- We often receive appreciation for the selfless service. Then, we understand, “My existence does make a meaningful difference to the people around me.” This kind of existential effect is a powerful antidote for those who find life meaningless and isolated.
- We get to settle the unresolved guilt that torments us. Doing voluntary service allows us to effectively and gradually let go of this emotional baggage and free ourselves from our mental prison of guilt.
- We get to share our experience and feelings with others. The opportunity for emotional ventilation is useful for our mental health. Our sincere sharing also helps to attract more genuine and supportive friendship.