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When it comes to mental health and addiction recovery, giving back to your community can help bring about a sense of purpose. It can also help you to embody important virtues such as selflessness and compassion that will help you on your journey to gain mental clarity and wellness. 

However, you must first learn to be of service to yourself in order for you to be able to give back to others. While this may seem contradictory, you must prioritize your mental and physical well-being so that you have time and energy available to give out to the world around you. According to social science researcher BrenĂ© Brown, those that have the firmest boundaries are able to offer the most compassion to others. Giving back to others has many benefits, making it a cornerstone in many mental health and addiction recovery programs. Some of these benefits include: 

  • Discovering deeper meaning and purpose in life
  • Contributing to a more connected and positive community
  • Fostering gratitude
  • Developing social and emotional skills
  • Staying connected to others
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Learning new perspectives from the people you are serving

What Does Giving Back Have to Do With Recovery?

Altruism has many positive benefits, such as gratitude, which allows you to recognize and appreciate who or what you already have. Gratitude also helps train your mind to look at situations and experiences more positively, which also contributes to a meaningful recovery. A great example of giving back in recovery is to thank the people that have supported and guided you through the process of your recovery. Whether that be family members, friends, or your therapists, these people believe in you and believe you are worthy. That deserves some gratitude. 

By providing your time and energy to help someone else, you are paying forward the gifts you have received from others and honoring the people that have helped you. The more lives you touch in a positive way, the more you will feel a greater sense of purpose and wellbeing in your own life. 

Giving Back Is Good for Your Brain

An article by the National Institutes of Health found that doing acts of service for others activates parts of your brain’s pleasure centers. Substance use issues and addiction happen at the cost of chemical imbalances associated with this brain region, responsible for pleasure and rewards. By giving back to your community, you are simultaneously retraining your brain’s understanding and recognition of pleasure. Service work can help to not only boost happiness but allows you to actually feel that you are making a difference in the world around you. 

Another reason why giving back is a crucial factor in recovery is because recovery must be supported through multiple lenses, including individual health, discovering life purpose, and engaging in connection with your community. Helping individuals in need allows you to create a bond with them as well as contribute to a positive atmosphere within your community. This mutual bond is important, as one day, you might need others to give back to you when you are in need of service. 

How Can I Give Back?

You can start by showing gratitude and appreciation for the people that are a part of your life. You can never go wrong by showing gratitude, as many of us take life’s gifts for granted. It is important to note that giving back does not have to be done financially, as offering your time, energy, or compassion can also be helpful. 

A useful first step in practicing altruism is to locate volunteer resources within your community. If you are attending treatment or therapy, ask if your center can pair you with volunteer opportunities. Volunteer opportunities may include working at the local soup kitchen or shelter or distributing lunches to local families in need. Volunteering can also be done at churches, libraries, or schools. If you attend support groups, you could arrive at meetings early and help by setting out chairs or bringing snacks. 

You can focus on your strengths and passions and look for opportunities that may align with them. For example, if you have a passion for working with kids, you could consider volunteering at community organizations or after-school care. If you are passionate about mental health, you can volunteer to give informational speeches at local events to raise awareness within your community. To help identify the right opportunities for you, consider talking with your therapist. They will be able to pair you with volunteering or come up with different acts of kindness that you can add to your daily routine.

One of the greatest gifts in addiction and mental health recovery is the gift of giving back to others. Giving back to your community fosters many positive benefits such as gratitude, self-esteem, social connection, and compassion. When it comes to recovery, giving back activates the brain’s reward and pleasure center. This means that through acts of service, you are retraining how your brain and body understand pleasure. Service work contributes to greater levels of happiness and helps individuals to develop a sense of purpose. There are many ways of giving back, such as volunteering or extending your appreciation for others. West Coast Recovery Centers believes in the power of serving others. We work with clients that need support and guidance with their mental health and substance use needs, encouraging service and social connection. If you are looking for service opportunities or other ideas on how to give back, give us a call today: (760) 492-6509.

West Coast Recovery Centers ( 370135CP), Valid through July 31, 2025
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