The concept of altruism basically explains the process of caring entirely for the well-being of others, selflessly and wholeheartedly. Countless research studies have shown how, as social beings, helping others allows us to feel good ourselves by building up our self esteem through the beauty of gratitude. A concept within emotion regulation is building mastery, working to increase pleasant events in your life by achieving something. Although emotion regulation skills are most commonly used in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, they are actually pretty useful to be aware of and implement regardless of who you are or what you do.
The aim of building mastery is to try to plan something to do every week that will allow you to feel like you have achieved something and for me personally, this is usually helping people. Not only are you positively making a difference in the life of a fellow human, you also get to experience the rewarding feelings of having been able to make their day a little better. It is definitely about finding what is right for you; sometimes it helps to start with the smaller things like completing an assignment or cleaning the house which may not be entirely pleasant, but the feelings of achievement are likely to boost your confidence.
Aside from scientific research that genuinely says we have an innate desire to do good, from a general perspective almost everyone can relate to that “warm and fuzzy” feeling we get when we help someone. This comes in so many forms; helping the homeless, talking a friend through a rough time, volunteering or even just holding the door open for someone. Theoretically speaking, it seems that being thanked by someone is what causes that warm feeling but for whatever reason a random act of kindness will almost always make us feel good about ourselves. That’s not to say we help people because we are selfish and want to feel better about ourselves but it is okay to do a good deed when we have a particularly difficult day and want something to boost our spirits; that doesn’t make us selfish.
Building mastery is about accomplishments so the tasks you set yourself have to be just the right amount of challenging and this will differ for everyone. Being an introvert, more often than not I would rather just stay at home on a day off rather than go off and volunteer for a few hours where I will actually have to socialise. Even though I know that I will be helping people, doing what I love and trying to make a difference in the world, it can be a challenge in itself convincing myself to go. When you experience something like depression, building mastery can seem like an impossible task but that is all the more reason to try because trust me, I talk from experience when I say that it will all pay off in the end.
From a religious point of view, the majority of monotheistic religions place great importance on helping and being kind to others. Of course there is the famous “love thy neighbour as thyself” teaching in Christianity and the saying of Imam Ali (sa), “a man is either your brother in faith or your equal in humanity” in Islam.
The Holy Quran also says “…and they give others preference over themselves even though they were themselves in need….”(59:9) – a pretty clear explanation of altruism right there. Whether it is helping specifically the poor by giving charity or simply helping another human being in need, Islam teaches us to be kind to others and put people before ourselves. Building mastery is about achieving something so take care of yourselves, look after your bodies and souls.
“The best investment you will ever make is an investment within yourself.” –