Tag Archives: help

Help: Asking and Offering

By Nancy S buck, PhD, RN

When you were a child did you learn the value of service? Perhaps your experience with scouts, church school, or some other kind of community group taught you that being of service to others is a virtue. Is this part of your experience?

Have you incorporated this into your morals and daily life practice? Do you and your children periodically purge toy boxes, book shelves, or other storage areas in your home to see what there is that you can give to others? Usually we discover more than a few items that are still in useful condition just no longer useful or necessary for our family.

helpinghands2It’s not surprising then to learn that there is increasing evidence from recent research that being of service to others is one factor contributing to positive Mental Health & Happiness. How wonderful to learn that being of service will help you as well as the people you are helping.

Let’s compare this idea with the common and equally powerful notion and belief in being a rugged individual. Do you believe that you must do it alone in order to be considered truly worthy of praise and success? After all the American way is being a rugged individual who pulls himself up by his boot straps, digs in and works hard, changing and making his own luck to finally succeed and make it on his own. 

How many of these cliches do you believe in? Are you using any of these beliefs to guide you toward your personal success?

Hmm . . how then to square the equally powerful notion of being fiercely independent while also being of service?

Perhaps you don’t see these as being in conflict. But if you are so fiercely independent does this keep you ask from asking for help and allowing another to be service to you?

Consider for a moment that no one can be completely independent. NO ONE! Even if you live alone and work alone, there are other people in your world who are going to work to provide you with the electricity you need, the grocery store or restaurant serving you to help you get your food, cooperative drivers on the road allowing you to travel safely to and from your destinations, and on and on.

Acts of service may not necessarily always be acts of kindness. But our lives would be dramatically different if there were not other people in the world doing their jobs and providing us with all of the necessities that make our lives better. These surely are acts of service.

Today consider how allowing others to serve you is actually an act of service and kindness in return. The next time you are determined to do something alone and seemingly independently, please remember that in fact there are many unknown and invisible people providing and serving you.

When you allow another person to offer you an act of service and you receive it, this is your own act of service in return. Receiving these offers with gratitude and kindness makes the exchange even better for you both!

It is equally rewarding for our Mental Health & Happiness to give and receive help. Together and interdependently we build each other’s Mental Health & Happinesss.

Good Morning World!

By Aimee, an enthusiastic follower of Mental Health & Happiness

When you first wake up in the morning, try to make your first thought one of gratitude.  If you slept well, that’s an easy one.

I struggle with insomnia so I can’t always use that one.  Sometimes I have to think instead, “I’m thankful that I slept better last night than the night before,” because while it wasn’t a good night of sleep, at least that statement is true.

If even that is not true, I might say instead, “I’m thankful for a comfortable bed,” for that is true even when I lie awake….it isn’t due to an uncomfortable bed.

Of course, many days, a non-sleep related thought pops into my head —gratitude for various relationships that are helping me on my journey to wellness and more in life, gratitude that I’m not alone in the the present battles I’m facing, and so on.

When I allow myself, I open up and ask others to pray for me, or to help me by keeping in touch, or some other discreet request. I find most people respond affirmatively.  The reality is we all have private worries and sorrows. So when I carefully and wisely choose someone trustworthy to open up to on days when I’m feeling particularly heavy with burdens, often that person can empathize precisely because they too have felt the same way.

Revealing our humanity, our occasional sense of being set upon, we bestow the gift of allowing the person we’ve opened up to both to have the opportunity to be kind and helpful (which people inherently enjoy) and we’ve reminded them that everyone struggles occasionally. So when they do, they don’t feel isolated or unusual.  The social masks of “I’m ok, You’re ok,” that we all too often wear, can prevent growth, intimacy and healing.


By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Give help rather than advice Luc de Vauvenargues

Are you aware of your God-given gift? We all have it.  We all have the ability to tell other people how to live their lives. Some people offer this advice freely, whether welcomed or not.

What’s amazing is that often the very people we are freely advising are not necessarily open and ready to hear all we have to offer. Some people are actually insulted and annoyed by our generous sharing.

If everyone could learn that what is right for me does not make it right for everyone else, the world would be a much happier place — William Glasser, MD

To test out this idea, think back in your own life, maybe only as far as the beginning of this day. Who has given you unsolicited advice? Did it help? Did it hurt? Were you insulted? Were you enlightened?


The reality is that no one knows all that is involved in what is happening in your life circumstance as well as you. When someone offers unsolicited advice, usually meant with the best of intentions, the advice is all wrong. As a result you may be no better off and you feel worse about yourself, the problem, or your relationship with this person.  Ugh!

Why do people offer this advice? Certainly their intention is not to detract from your Mental Health & Happiness. However, most people, especially friends, colleagues and family members, want to help solve our problems and help us feel happier. Unsolicited advice is often offered to help contribute to other people’s Mental Health & Happiness in a positive way. Instead this too often is a mistake, detractor and at best a nuisance.

Here are some ideas (dare I say advice) that you might find useful:

  1. The next time a person is complaining, sharing, or moaning about a problem or overwhelming circumstance ask what you can do to help? As the above quote reminds us, offering help instead of advice is almost always welcomed. Amazingly the person may frequently tell you that when you simply listen that is all the help they need!
  2. If you have such fabulous and perfect advice that you simply cannot resist sharing, ask permission to share first. “I have an idea that I think will help. Would you like to hear it?” If the person politely declines, go to the bathroom or the closest mirror. Now tell this great idea to the person looking back at you in the mirror. Do not share it with the person who declined your offer!
  3. If you discover that you seem to be a frequent recipient of other people’s unsolicited advice, start self-evaluating? Are you voicing frequent complaints such that others might perceive that you are asking for help? Are you clearly stating what you want; someone to listen attentively without offering advice?

The simple practice to improve Mental Health & Happiness is to offer help rather than advice. Please know that this advice was offered in the spirit of helping.

You are what you think

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Do you pay attention to the food you eat? Are you choosing foods and drinks that refresh, nourish and support your body and optimal health? These days there is more information than ever about what good and healthy choices actually mean. Sometimes this information and advice can actually be more confusing than helpful. The need to become informed, thoughtful and an educated consumer is not only true for your own individual needs, but also for your family.

If you drive a car, do you pay attention to your safe driving habits? Are you cautious and conscious when driving in a school zone, on mountain pass or through inclement weather? Before you take a long road trip you probably conscientiously have your mechanic give your car the tending and overhaul necessary to ensure a safe and hazard-free trip.

How would you rate your dental and oral hygiene routine? On a scale of one to ten with one being neglectful and careless and ten indicating that you follow your dentist’s and hygienist’s recommendations regularly, what is your score?

You are what you eat.
You are what you do.
You are what you think. 

Louise Hay, self-help guru and mother of the modern-day positive affirmation movement has been preaching the idea that you become what you think for years. Your thoughts either support, heal and help you, or they harm, hurt and damage you.


Consistent with Glasser’s notion that all behavior is total comprised of the four simultaneously occurring components of: acting, thinking, feeling, and physiology (ing), a thought is not simply a thought. There is simultaneously accompanying acting, feeling and physiology(ing) with every thought. When you think happy, optimistic, affirmative thoughts your concurrent acting, feeling and physiology is optimistic and affirmative. When you think negative, hurtful or angry thoughts, your concurrent acting, feeling and physiology is negative, hurtful or angry.

Is it time you started considering your verbal and thought diet? When you start self-evaluating and taking a similar inventory about your private thoughts, as well as your oral and written statements as you did with your food, driving and oral hygiene habits, how are you doing?

If you aren’t really sure, let today be the day you start being conscious of your private thoughts. Start listening to what you say to others and yourself.

Is it time for you to alter your thinking and verbal diet to improve your Mental Health & Happiness? You are what you think. Since there are so many wonderful thoughts to choose from, start choosing delightful, loving and kind thoughts today. Try this:

Today I choose to be Mentally Healthy & Happy

Who is the expert?

By Bruce R Allen, MSW, LCSW

When my daughter was about 16 she was taking the advanced algebra class in high school.  For me, algebra was little more than a traumatic memory and something that stoked a sense of inadequacy that I never wanted to revisit.

homeworkhelp_22552156One night she called out to me and asked if I would help her with a homework question.  I figured, hey,  I finished college, I can probably help with most high school homework questions. Then the fear shuddered through me when I saw that the problem she needed help with was algebra homework.  I secretly thought Well there goes that Dad on a pedestal deal.

She showed me the problem she was working on and explained were she was stuck.  I looked at the symbols on the page, listened to her explanation of the issue and realized that I knew nothing!

I decided to ask her,  “So, are there any other problems in your homework that are similar to this one that is stumping you?”

She looked at it, studied the page and replied “The one before is similar.”  I asked, “Did you complete the one before it successfully? Did you solve that one successfully?”

“Yes, I’m sure I got that one right!”  I then asked her, “So how is the one you are working on different from the similar problem that you got right?”

She looked at the problem again and said, “Ohhh”, now I‘ve got it.”

I stood up to leave the room and said,  “You’re welcome.”

She said, “For what? You didn’t do anything.”

This lesson was a powerful one for me.  I didn’t need accolades for helping her, but certainly I wanted to feel her appreciation.  I realized though that she was 16 and that it was more important for her to see that she had what it took to solve her own problem.

Often when people present us with a problem, we feel that it is now our responsibility to solve it, or at least give good advice.  It was much more empowering for her to base her solution on what she already knew, and have me trust that she could figure it out with just a bit of coaching.

Besides,  I didn’t have to fail in my attempt at solving an algebra problem.

What if we can do this with our friends and the people we work with?  Sometimes finding the right questions to get at what people already know and want is the most potent way to help.


By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most under-rated agent of human change; kindness that catches us by surprise bringing out the best in our natures.                                                                                                                        Bob Kerry

A brilliant friend of mine who is the mother of an amazing 6-year old daughter has started a family tradition. Every December they, along with 7 other families, put together and give away blessing bags for the homeless. Here is how she describes it

“Every family brings 30 items.  Then we have a party. We lay it all out and everyone makes their bags from the items everyone bought. It’s fun and the kids get to talk to each other about what it was like when they got to hand out bags. I also read two books to them about being homeless. It was a great way to explain homelessness to our young children. We talk about how some problems we can’t solve but we can still make a difference in the lives of some people who are struggling.  You can make a difference no matter your age or size.

canstockphoto0190342“Here in Rhode Island we see a a lot of homeless people at intersections who are holding signs. Before we started this project our kids would ask about these folks and of course were upset to learn some people don’t have homes. This is especially distressing during our cold winters. Our children would ask a lot of good questions about it. We parents felt it was important to help our children feel more empowered to help.

“I saw a pin on Pinterest about this project so organized the 7 families to make the blessing bags. One of the children suggested we add a little piece of art so people would have something beautiful to look at. All the children liked this idea. It feels more personal for the kids to add something they made.

“This project is something I am passionate about. In college I worked in a homeless shelter doing overnights. I can feel overwhelmed and hopeless about the problem of homelessness. But handing out these blessing bags, little gifts of comfort, also helps me!”

Here is what they put in their bags:

Hand warmers, socks, high protein snacks (larabars, peanut butter and cracker packs, beef jerky or tuna bags) fruit cups, toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss donated from dental professionals, leftover Halloween candy from the children, a picture drawn by a child, and printed brochures of the local shelters listed, as well as places to get hot meals, and food pantries. We also make a few bags that have sanitary pads and tampons for the women we see.

Caring for others is consistently listed as a practice to improve Mental Health & Happiness. Perhaps this mother and daughter team can inspire your own act of kindness that will not only help the life of someone else, it will also improve your own Mental Health & Happiness.*

*Thank you Amanda and Willow Campbell for telling me your story and inspiring this blog.

Man in a Hole

Dr. Ken Larsen

I first heard this story on an old episode of the “West Wing” series. I was moved by it then and it still gives me a thoughtful pause when I hear it again. Sometimes we need to take a risk to help another regain mental health and happiness. The funny thing is, we often get more ourselves when we reach down and help a brother out of the hole where he is stuck.
There was this guy walking down a street that was under construction. Somehow he got off the designated safe path and fell down a deep hole. The walls were so steep and the hole so deep that he couldn’t get out. Nearing despair he looked up, searching the opening hoping someone would come along to help.

After a while he spotted a Doctor walking by. The guy in the hole shouted, “Hey, Doc. Can you help me out?” The Doctor peered down into the hole, stepped back, took out his pen and wrote a Rx. He dropped the Rx down the hole and walked on.

maninholeA bit later a priest walked by. Our guy in the hole pleaded with the Padre, “Hey Father, can you help me out?” The priest looked down in the hole, wrote out a prayer and dropped it down the hole with his blessing as he turned and walked away.

The guy in the hole was getting pretty discouraged. After a while he looked up again and saw a friend walking by. “Hey Joe, it’s me Tom down in the hole. Can you help me out?” His friend looked down, and then jumped into the hole.

The guy in the hole says to his friend, “What, are you stupid? Now we’re both stuck down here.”

His friend replied, “Yes, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.”

“So help your brother along the way, no matter where he starts. For the God that made you, made him, too.These men with broken hearts.” Hank Williams