People across the world engage in altruistic behaviors, ranging from paying for a cup of coffee for a stranger, donating gently used clothing, toys or household items, or volunteering at a local food bank. Engagement in service to others occurs without the expectation of anything in return. However, the benefits of altruistic behaviors have well-documented positive benefits to the individual in the helper role. For example, studies have shown that youth that engage in acts of volunteerism developed better values, achieved academic improvement and experienced lower rates of discipline problems. Similarly, adults that participate in volunteering activities have reported greater satisfaction in their life, decreased anxiety and depression symptoms, and better overall functioning in social settings.
Additional benefits of being of service to others include creating a sense of connection to others. This connection can help reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. Feelings of empowerment can help solidify a sense of purpose and contribute to a positive self-identity, which are other secondary outcomes of volunteerism. As so many individuals, families and communities are struggling right now, volunteering can help put things into perspective when helping those who are less fortunate. Individuals who engage in volunteering become more positive in their overall demeanor and optimistic in their outlook on life. Through the act of helping others, stress is reduced, which produces positive physical and mental health outcomes; this has been linked to longer life expectancy rates. Volunteerism is contagious; seeing random acts of kindness produces more generosity toward others.
The value of service toward others also is encouraged through self-help programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. The foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous was built on the premise of prosocial behavior. The Alcoholics Anonymous text reviews the philosophy of the AA program and outlines the 12 steps of the recovery process. Within the preamble of AA, the primary purpose is to maintain sobriety, while helping others achieve sobriety. AA literature identifies that self-centeredness, the opposite trait of service, is the primary problem of alcoholics: “Above everything, we alcoholics must be rid of this selfishness. We must, or it kills us.”
Service to others is ingrained in the practice of AA, as the benefits are well documented. Studies have demonstrated that being a sponsor increases the length of sobriety in an alcoholic. Individuals who sponsor others or have worked the 12 Steps while in treatment have proven to be two times as likely to maintain sobriety in the year after completing treatment.
Back2Basics incorporates the principles of the 12 Steps into its treatment approach to support addicts in their journey to recovery. Back2Basics is a nationally accredited and licensed addiction and recovery outdoor adventure program. Back2Basics incorporates five core program competencies, including counseling, outdoor adventure, culinary and exercise programming, as well as education and life skills opportunities.
Service activities are considered learning opportunities, which allow residents to feel accomplished, while producing a renewed sense of self through volunteering within Northern Arizona. Providing service to others in any capacity offers short- and long-term benefits. Be an agent of change and give back to the individuals and families within your community; this will inspire others to mirror your actions.
Back2Basics is a Joint Commission nationally accredited treatment center offering up to six months of daily programming, licensed here in Arizona. Back2Basics Outdoor Adventure Recovery combines residential therapeutic counseling with experiential outdoor adventures to treat individuals with substance and alcohol addiction and lead them through rehab and recovery into long-term sober living. The program is highlighted by spending time in the beautiful, serene wilderness where individuals are physically challenged, their minds are cleared and they learn ways to defeat old addictive thinking patterns through various outdoor adventures. Back2Basics is now accepting most medical insurance. FBN
By Natalie Randolph, DBH, LCSW