In a world where we drain ourselves taking care of others, it seems counterintuitive to take care of yourself physically by encouraging others. Find out how it all works. #encourageothers #affirmations #altruism #selfcare #physicalselfcare #selfcaresunday #selfcarehacks #physicalhealth #mentalhealth #volunteering

In a world where we drain ourselves taking care of others, it seems counterintuitive to take care of yourself physically by encouraging others. Find out how it all works.

Every time we encourage others, we benefit ourselves. This month we’ll explore the mental, academic, physical, and spiritual self-care benefits of encouraging those around us.

Four Ways to Take Care of Yourself Physically by Encouraging Others

Why DO People Cheer Marathoners?

“Way to go!” a stranger yelled from the side of the road.

“You can do it!” another one called while she clapped enthusiastically.

“Four miles to go! Four miles to go!” someone else chanted.

“Free hugs!” a sign proclaimed.

“Free hugs?” I thought. “I could use one of those at mile 22!” I moved over and gave the sign holder a side hug.

“You’re awesome!” she assured me. “You, go, girl!”

A surge of energy swept through me. Enough to get me over the crest of the never-ending hill.

My first marathon, but not my first experience running a race or hearing the encouragement from random strangers.

What motivated thousands of people to stand next to the road for hours on end cheering for complete strangers? While I understood the benefit to the runners, I wondered if the cheering and enthusiasm did anything for those on the sidelines.

Encouraging Others Counts as Altruism

It turns out acts of altruism such as cheering from the sidelines and encouraging others have physical benefits for the cheerleaders, too.

In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, the authors state, “Giving support contributes to the link between social ties and health.” In the study, researchers Tristen K. Inagaki, Ph.D., and Lauren Ross, P. BA, tested whether targeted altruism benefited the giver more than untargeted help. They discovered benefits to the giver increased when helping people they knew, as opposed to giving to a charity.

Another review of literature (a fancy term for researchers analyzing all the studies done on a subject) by Dr. Rachel Casiday from the University of Wales Lampeter showed that:

“Volunteering was shown to decrease mortality and to improve self-rated health, mental health, life satisfaction, the ability to carry out activities of daily living without functional impairment, social support and interaction, healthy behaviours and the ability to cope with one’s own illness.”

Dr. Rachel Casiday

When we encourage others, we not only benefit them we help take care of ourselves physically. As strange as it seems, when we help others, we help ourselves. But how can we help others? Not everyone has time to stand beside a road cheering marathon runners on to the finish. And it takes a special kind of person to offer free hugs to sweaty, stinky strangers.

Four Ways You Can Encourage Others and Take Care of Yourself Physically

I’ll give examples of encouraging others for both introverts and extroverts. As an introvert, I struggle to find meaningful ways to encourage others outside my small circle of people I prefer to hang out with.

1. Encourage People at Work

It seems like a no-brainer (unless you’ve never formed the habit of encouraging others), but your colleagues could benefit from your encouraging words, too. Each day at staff meeting, we have appreciation time where we acknowledge people who have done something kind or helpful. These words of affirmation help spur us on to continue treating each other with kindness. As a group of culturally, generationally, and ethnically diverse people, with very strong opinions (teachers tend to have strong opinions), affirmations help bind us together.

I might not agree with a coworker’s politics, but I can appreciate his humanity in going the extra mile for a student or fellow coworker. As an introvert, I don’t speak up often during this time, but I can participate as I feel comfortable. Giving affirmations during difficult decision-making sessions helps calm me down (I can get eye-rolly and negative during heated discussions). I’m learning to preface sharing my opinions with affirmations for the views and strengths of others.

2. Encourage Family Members

In a world where we drain ourselves taking care of others, it seems counterintuitive to take care of yourself physically by encouraging others. Find out how it all works. #encourageothers #affirmations #altruism #selfcare #physicalselfcare #selfcaresunday #selfcarehacks #physicalhealth #mentalhealth #volunteering

Another easy introvert’s hack for encouraging others includes affirming or helping family members. Learning to affirm and encourage people we already love and cherish will not only improve our physical health, it will improve our relational health as well.

If affirmations feel awkward for you, start by journaling about them. Move on to writing kind notes or affirmation or encouragement and leaving them in your kids’ lunchboxes, dresser drawers, or in the glovebox of your partner’s car. Text messages work great, too. Even if your loved one doesn’t have words of affirmation as their primary love language (link), everyone feels good with honest words of affirmation and encouragement.

3. Volunteer for a Church or Community Organization

Does your church run a soup kitchen or a Family Promise program? Even introverts can find a way to volunteer. When we lived in Montana, I volunteered to bring meals for the Family Promise group. I didn’t have to interact with a lot of people, but I could still help out. Church extroverts volunteered to spend the night or give rides.

If you enjoy sports, you could volunteer to coach for a kid’s soccer or softball league. Even if you don’t feel qualified to lead out, you could volunteer to assist. When our girls played sports, I volunteered to keep the score books.

Boys and Girls Club of America always needs volunteers, too. You could also hang out at a local nursing home (once COVID restrictions allow), bake cookies for your neighbors, or shovel someone else’s driveway after a snowstorm.

4. Take Up Sideline Cheerleading

Does your town or city host a fun run or a marathon once a year? You could experience the thrill of cheering complete strangers on. Whether you volunteer to assist at an aide station or stand in front of your house in your PJs with a cup of coffee and a kind word, your actions matter. Not just for the tired people running by, but for you and your sense of well-being.

You don’t have to raise money and go on a foreign mission trip to reap the physical self-care benefits of altruism. Although mission trips provide excellent opportunities for growth.

A Word About Balance

These suggestions take into account not only introverts and extroverts, but seasons of life. If you have small children at home, know that you don’t need to go on a mission trip to benefit from acts of kindness. Encouraging your children, your spouse, or your friends will help you out.

And if you wonder, volunteering or affirming others won’t make you lose weight. But it will make you feel better about yourself. Which in turn might help you make better choices about what you eat, the amount of sleep you get, or how much you exercise.

Looking for ways to take care of yourself physically? Skip the massage and try encouraging others! #physicalselfcare #selfcare Click To Tweet

What ways have you discovered to encourage others? Have you ever noticed your mood changing for the better when you cheer others on?

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  1. I completely agree with all of this, Anita! I think when we encourage other people, it makes us want to do it more and in order to be an encouragement, one also has to be somewhat of a role model. I do believe that will lead to making healthier personal choices. We cannot be effective helpers and encouragers if we ourselves are not healthy enough to do it. I am enthusiastic about offering encouragement all around me. It not only boosts my own spirit, it is sort of like insurance that someone will be around to encourage me when I need it! Great post!


  2. I so needed this – “Learning to affirm and encourage people we already love and cherish will not only improve our physical health, it will improve our relational health as well.” – in a family of all sons – it seems like they show affection with wrestling words – and I’m so ready for the affirming and encouraging words. I see them speak it with their children – but when they get together! Whew! Encouraging words have the power to be balm to the soul – thank you for this Monday Morning Reminder!!

  3. I’m guilty of noticing growth and good things in others and appreciating it, but failing to let them know. I need to do better at that.

    I also thought how ironic it is that people think venting. blowing off steam, or responding angrily during conflicts will make them feel better, when actually makes them feel worse. I like what Jerralea said–we reap what we sow. When we encourage others, we’re encouraged.
    Barbara Harper recently posted…Disagreeing Like a ChristianMy Profile

  4. Dear Anita, thank you for the affirmation and encouragement! I’ve been a note-writer for years, and love doing it. My mother-in-law and I have never had a great relationship. (I think the only rebellious thing Tom ever did was to marry me; I should have been forewarned when I didn’t meet his parents until after we were engaged.) Over the years I’ve written her a few notes to thank her (& Dad) for the terrific man, husband, and father they raised up. I never got a single response and finally stopped. Recently, she has transitioned to a care facility and has frequently wept from loneliness. I’m not an old-person person, but I can still write notes, every Monday to Mom. I know she’ll never respond, but it makes me, & Tom, feel better. Sir Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power,” and certainly it is. In today’s harsh world, perhaps we should start telling ourselves and others that, “Encouraging is power!” Thanks and blessings, Anita!
    Alice Walters recently posted…Road to the Cross: Out of the ShadowsMy Profile

  5. A hug at mile 22 of a marathon? Yes, please!!! I am not surprised that helping others helps us. I volunteer for Meals on Wheels not that I am retired. I am sure that I have received so many more blessings from my volunteer position than I have given. Volunteering at races is also a blessing to me. Wonderful post, Anita!
    Laurie recently posted…You Do You; I’ll Do MeMy Profile

  6. Anita, you’re speaking my language. I enjoy encouraging others . . . through notes and words. And especially with teenaged boys, I’m learning to encourage instead of (or at least before) offering correction. There is definitely something about encouraging others that lifts up the spirit.

    I LOVED that someone offered hugs at mile 22 of a marathon. And that you were brave enough to take them up on it. 🙂

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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