06/09/2011 08:22 am ET | Updated Aug 09, 2011

A 500-Year Plan for Humanity's Mental Health

Author Nelson Henderson said, "The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit." What does this mean? There's a depth of meaning that we can bring to our lives when we take action for something greater than ourselves. Henderson's quote in particular is about doing things in this life that will benefit people far after the time we have passed.

In my mind, there's a certain level of psychological benefit and well-being that we get from doing things that have nothing to do with us. To some degree there's some truth in the idea that whatever we give, we get back in this world.

A more general question might be, "Is there anything you're doing to make this world a better place for the generations to come?"

Besides planting trees, which is a great thing to do and often has an immediate benefit if you're doing it yourself, what about helping the disadvantaged children in this world?

The children are the future generations that are going to be the future parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. Helping them get a more solid foundation and education can literally change the complexion of this world in the centuries to come.

The truth is that altruistic acts like this need to be introduced into our mental health plans. What I mean is that if you choose some way to help future generations and you're involved on an ongoing basis, you will absolutely benefit psychologically.

My belief is that this specific type of altruism has a great effect, as it takes us out of our egos and nurtures the reality that there is something greater than ourselves, namely this planet and the years and years of people that are to live on this planet.

A while ago I edited a book with names like Jon Kabat-Zinn, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Dan Siegel and so many others, focusing particularly on "A Mindful Dialogue" (also available on Kindle), 100 percent of whose proceeds go to Save the Children. Getting this e-book is just one way that you can start this process, but there are so many more.

What are some ways you can think of? Get in on the conversation.

As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.

This piece is adapted from Elisha Goldstein's publication on