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One of my favourite films of all time is Pay It Forward, starring Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment. The main theme of the story is that a group of school children have to come up with an idea that will make the world a better place. The main character chooses an idea called Pay It Forward. The idea is that you have to help three people with things they can’t do for themselves. In the film, the little boy helps his teacher with his relationship troubles, and brings a homeless man home to live in his garage! The idea is that the people who are helped can’t return the favour to the one that helped them; they instead have to go out and help three other people themselves.
The pay it forward idea is a brilliant one and grows really fast. While I love a good movie, the idea behind this film was what actually struck me.
Those of us who suffer from anxiety tend to be extremely empathetic to others. How many of us have put the needs of others above our own needs? So, it stands to reason that we could be the ones to start this kind of movement ourselves. In this post I’d like to discuss how helping others is actually a form of therapy. It feels good to extend kindness to other people, and when we do it without any recompense, it feels even better.
What does it mean to pay it forward?
The idea is a really simple one:
- You help three people, but it has to be things they can’t do for themselves. I.e, paying for someone’s groceries when they don’t have enough money, carrying an elderly person’s shopping when you can see that they are struggling, or even offering to babysit for a friend when you know they need a break but have no options.
- You don’t accept anything from them for your good deed. Instead, you explain to them the concept of paying it forward and ask them to go out and help three other people.
Although it is incredibly simple, it can also make the world of difference to the people you help. Something that may seem easy for you, could be impossible to someone else. So by changing the way their life goes that day, it could have an impact on the way they see their selves and their future.
Why should you pay it forward?
As I said above, doing things for others makes us feel good. We want to feel appreciated. But if you’ve ever volunteered or donated money, you will also know that doing things for others that don’t require you to receive anything in return feels even better.
I personally find if I’m having a bad time with my anxiety, but someone else needs me, it can help me to take my mind off my own concerns for a little while and come back to it when I’m in a better frame of mind. Helping that person makes me feel useful and better about myself, so when I come back to my worries, I’m often in a place where I can view them more objectively.
So by doing something meaningful for someone else, you make yourself feel good. But you also make someone else feel good. Those of us with a tendency to put others needs before our own, do this because we know it makes us feel good. Though we have to be careful not to completely neglect our own self-care! We can’t help others if we let ourselves get into a downward spiral.
But think about the impact something like this has. If you help just three people, and then those people help three people each, it could have a huge impact throughout the world. Most of us would like to create a better world, and this is such a simple way to do it.
Not to mention the effect it has on our self-esteem, confidence and happiness. Knowing that you are doing something bigger than you has a profound effect on the way you see yourself. It creates a connection with the people you help, which helps to widen your social circle, improving confidence; and being social creatures, this also improves our happiness.
How does it grow so big?
It’s a simple case of maths how this system increases so fast. It’s literally 3x3x3 and so on:
So you see that by helping just three people, it rapidly grows to 27 people in just three steps! It has the potential to go viral.
The point of this post:
- Helping others helps us to feel better about ourselves, boosts our confidence, self-esteem and happiness
- It can help us to view our anxiety and depression with a better perspective
- Spreading kindness as far around the world as possible can’t be a bad thing!
- The impact this has is infinite
What do you think of this idea? Is it something you might try? Let us know in the comments below