According to most religious traditions and many scientific studies, selflessness is the path to happiness. Still, some people contest that they must put themselves first to avoid getting burned out or feeling like a doormat. This doesn't have to be true, though!
If you take a sensible approach to selflessness, you can take care of your own well-being while helping those around you. Try these techniques and see if you don't feel just a little bit better about yourself and your life.
Strategies for Avoiding Burnout
1. Take care of yourself. Protecting your own well-being is essential to maintaining the capacity to serve others. Take care of your own physical and mental health so you stay strong and have as many years as possible to do good works for yourself and others.
2. Develop reliable sources of self-esteem. Cultivate the awareness that you and all creatures have value, regardless of anything you or they accomplish. Tap into inner sources of validation and motivation.
3. Manage stress. Keeping stress under control allows you to get more done with less effort. Get a full eight hours of sleep each night, or whatever amount you need to keep you operating at your individual best. Engage in regular exercise and find hobbies you enjoy.
4. Set realistic goals. Become a humanitarian on whatever scale is feasible for you. If the idea of moving to Haiti to work in an orphanage makes you nervous, you can still volunteer to clean up your local park on weekends or help your aging neighbors with their yard work.
5. Work as a team. When you're embarking on a challenge, having partners is helpful. Recruit family and friends to join you in starting a community garden where everyone will share the harvest. Then, donate fresh produce to local shelters.
6. Remember to be grateful. You probably enjoy any opportunity to do something nice for people you love. The more you remember how much your welfare depends on the efforts of others to provide you with food and other necessities, the more you'll want to give something back to your community.
7. Meditate or pray. Studies show that decreases in activity in the right parietal lobe of the brain cause people to behave more selflessly – regardless of whether the cause is brain injury, meditation, or prayer. Naturally, you want to steer clear of brain injuries. But anyone can use prayer or secular meditation to strengthen their capacity for altruism.
Strategies to Avoid Feeling Like a Doormat
1. Make smart investments. Being discriminating about where you choose to give is perfectly okay. You may be more willing to provide free babysitting for a relative who's going on a job interview rather than for one who's getting their nails done.
2. Empower others. The greatest gifts enable people to do more for themselves. Teach your friends how to fix their own minor computer problems. Not only will they be pleased to have that knowledge the next time they need it for themselves, they'll be able to pass those skills along.
3. Give without expecting immediate returns. You're less likely to experience resentment or disappointment if you look beyond getting thanked directly. By focusing on bettering other people's lives and increasing your own happiness, you're bound to feel gratified.
4. Learn to say no. Being selfless is consistent with declining certain requests for assistance. Let people know tactfully, but firmly, when you're unable to help out. This is especially true in cases where such assistance could be harmful, like giving money to someone who gambles.
5. Observe positive role models. Generosity is contagious. Pay attention to the acts of kindness you see around you and they'll inspire you to reach out, too.
Make your life more meaningful and enjoy greater happiness through becoming more selfless. This practice is beneficial for you and everyone you encounter. Giving feels good when you develop positive motivation and make sensible choices.