Volunteer for Your Own Wellness
More than a dozen years ago, when my son was applying to college, one of his friends told him, “We have to get involved with more extra-currics.” He was talking about extracurricular activities. The idea was to build their “resumes” to enhance their attractiveness to college admissions officers.
Today, kids are ‘building their resumes’—finding opportunities to volunteer and help people in need -- at younger and younger ages--a wonderful phenomena! For today’s youth, involvement in community service will come naturally as they grow and mature.
For me, community service came later in life…
When I was starting my career many decades ago, I remember hoping to one day be wealthy so that I could donate huge amounts to my favorite charities. Fortunately, rather than waiting for “someday” to come, I learned how much of a difference I could make by donating time and energy to good causes and people in need. Volunteering makes a difference and it doesn’t take money to contribute to a cause or charity!
In the past 20 years, I’ve become involved in many activities in my community to help people in need. It has been an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling experience, and has improved my health and happiness beyond what I expected.
What are the benefits that come from giving of yourself?
Giving to others helps to improve your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose! It’s easier to temporarily forget about your own problems when you shift your focus to helping organizations in need and those whose life circumstances have pushed them down.
While it’s true that the more you volunteer to help people in need, the more benefits you’ll experience. Volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your day. Giving, even in simple ways, can help those in need and improve your health and happiness. And, studies have shown a positive correlation between volunteering and longevity in life. 😊
Volunteering makes a difference; it allows you to connect with your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. And volunteering is a two-way street; it can benefit you and your family just as much. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps make new friends, expand your network, and boost your engagement with your community.
Whether you volunteer to stock shelves in a food pantry, work in the library book store one morning a week, help out at your local animal shelter, or serve as a ‘friendly visitor’ at your local hospital, it makes a difference. Giving of your time and energy helps you to put your stress and anxieties on hold for a brief pause.
Following your passion is key.
Are there particular causes that are important to you? If you are passionate about children, for example, consider volunteering at a children’s pre-school or in an after-school program, or in the pediatric wing of your local hospital. Interested in helping adults in need? Try contacting local community service organizations, a homeless shelter or health clinic. If you’d rather work behind the scenes, and your have skills that support more administrative activities, follow that instinct and find a program or center that needs organizational or administrative support. Pick up the phone and reach out!
If you are not happy with a volunteer assignment, don’t be reluctant to make a change. What sounded great in theory may not suit you in reality. It’s not selfish to change! You will be of greatest service to the world if you spend time doing things you enjoy or are good at.
Like every other change you want to make in your life, start slow.
Don’t do too much, too fast. It’s easy to get caught up and soon find yourself in over your head in terms of the type of work you are doing or your time commitment. If you volunteer for too many activities or give too much time too soon, the endeavor will backfire for you and the organizations you’re helping. Find a pace that you can sustain. Start slow. Remember: you can always add more time as you get used to making time for these activities in your schedule.
At the same time, it’s good to jump in with a “just do it” spirit!
Involve your family if you can.
Children watch everything you do. By giving back to the community, you’ll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how helping other people, animals, and causes can be so pivotal in improving your health and happiness! We want to pass this on to our children, and of course, the best way to get children to do what we want them to do is to model those behaviors ourselves.
It’s easier than ever to find ways to be of service.
If you are a member of a church, synagogue, or other religious organization, ask there.
Ask your friends where they volunteer.
If you practice yoga or attend a yoga studio, ask your yoga instructor if he or she volunteers. At the risk of stereotyping (though a positive stereotype), almost every yoga instructor I’ve met is or has been involved in service activities.
Search Google to find community activities in your chosen neighborhoods - Stamford, CT is one of our top favorites!
There are many ways to get involved and make a difference. You could:
Set up a collection program at your office for money or non-perishables and deliver the bounty to the local pantry.
Raise money for a cause - ride in bike-a-thons, run or walk in 5K’s, or if you’re an ambitious athlete, participate in marathons and triathlons to support causes of your choice.
Volunteer to help fundraising walks/5Ks, etc. They always need volunteers the day of the event at registrations tables and more.
Volunteer at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or center for abused women. They need all the love they can get – your volunteering really makes a difference to these people in need.
Become a literacy volunteer - teach English as a second language, or as a first language to kids, or to grown-ups who need help.
Tutor kids who are struggling with basic skills (math, reading, etc.).
Become a dog walker for a friend who might need it, a friendly visitor to an ailing friend or neighbor, or join a ‘caring circle’ to support someone struggling through medical treatments (such as chemotherapy).
Contact the American Cancer Society in your area and volunteer to transport patients to appointments.
If you volunteer or when you start volunteering, tell others about your experience! Don’t be shy - spread the word! This may motivate others to find their own volunteer ‘niche’ and that would be a great service to our communities, as well as a marvelous way to enrich our lives. And maybe one day, someone else will be volunteering to help you. Just give it a try – there are few things more rewarding than volunteering and giving back to those in need.