My last breakup was painful and upsetting, and it still hurts. But it was fundamentally different to any end of a relationship I had experienced before and the only thing that was different was my attitude.
For one, I knew exactly what kind of person I wanted to be and didn’t let the pain or anger change that. I didn’t allow myself to cope by getting attention from other people or by drinking/eating/[fill in the blank with your vice] excessively, nor did I let myself sit at home and mope.
The second, equally big difference, was that I volunteered.
I have always volunteered a lot and considered it a part of myself and my daily life but – full disclosure – since this summer I also work for Golden, an app that connects volunteers with nonprofit organizations.
When I went out in the field to volunteer after my breakup, I noticed a dramatic shift within myself. I got to be the person I wanted to be. I had control, I did something I was proud of, I met new people and I made connections in a meaningful, authentic way. Most importantly, volunteering showed me what really matters and helped put my heartbreak in perspective.
I wasn’t running away from my feelings; I allowed myself to connect with people and be vulnerable. Permitting myself to feel in that specific environment didn’t bring up the hurt and betrayal I was feeling otherwise because of my breakup. I felt proud and strong again through volunteering.
There are many reasons why helping others is so effective in helping you mend. Here are 7 to think about:
Reason #1. It puts your problems in perspective and helps you avoid self pity.
Reason #2. You meet new people and create new friendships.
Reason #3. Your self esteem increases.
Reason #4. You give yourself a distraction from the pain you’re feeling.
Reason #5. You learn something new (maybe a skill, or something about yourself).
Reason #6. Doing something for others releases feel-good hormones like serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins and dopamine.
Reason #7. It’s arguably one of the best ways to meet someone new!
Breaking up hurts. That’s just it. It hurts. But hopefully that will never change; because the hurt means that we were brave enough to open ourselves up and that we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable. And that’s one of the most beautiful gifts we can give another person and ourselves. And as uncomfortable and disorienting as a breakup may be, it’s a chance to get to know ourselves again, to listen to our needs and find out what we really want. I would argue it’s also a chance to give back to others.
I wish everyone knew how powerful intentional acts of kindness are to feel strong, worthy and beautiful. I invite everyone, heartbroken or not, to give volunteering a shot.