Once in a while, when I feel like I could take on more and/or need something new and different in my life, I’ll see out volunteer opportunities.
Luckily, I’m occasionally approached by one of the local schools I work for, or a former student, who has me in mind for a small volunteer project and reaches out via email. Although I have to be picky about what I agree to (even though it pains me sometimes- like turning down an all-expenses-paid 5 week opportunity to teach in China- that one hurt), I’m fortunate that so many amazing projects come my way.
Recently, I’ve been coaching a high school student as she works on a speech about bullying, and it’s been a wonderful experience. Sure, there are times when I’m exhausted from work and would rather lay on the couch than go help, but I’m always incredibly happy and inspired when I come home from our meetings, and I feel fortunate to have had this opportunity (thanks, Ally, for reaching out to me on a whim!).
Having said that, I thought it would be appropriate to post about some of the benefits of volunteering- for both the volunteer and the people that need help:
1. It feels great for everyone involved (and as the volunteer, you get the added bonus of feel good chemicals like serotonin, oxytocin, dopamine, and endorphins that get released and mimic a runner’s high)
2. Overall better physical health and mental health (it can even reduce symptoms of depression and cut down on your risk of heart disease)
3. Your efforts can have a tremendous impact (you can ultimately change someone’s life, and someone can ultimately change your life)
4. It’s a chance to get out of your comfort zone or just mix up your usual routine (trying something new and different can inspire you in other areas of your life that you may not have anticipated)
5. It’s an opportunity to make new friends, social ties, become part of a new community, and even make career connections (whether building relationships is a goal of yours or not, volunteering for any organization just a few times can have these results)
So the next time you feel like you’re in a bit of a rut, find yourself with some extra time, or are looking for a more sustainable form of happiness, consider looking for ways that you can give back.
Happy living :).
(*Note: Some information found in the article “So What’s So Good About Giving” by Terri Cole on the Huffington Post at the following link http://www.huffingtonpost.com/terri-cole/volunteering-health_b_2189477.html)