We live ever-busier lives with a myriad of responsibilities and requests on our time, and while self-care is championed as the antidote to the stress and strains life can throw at us, a question poses itself: could helping others actually help us just as much?
Being involved as a volunteer can mean learning new skills, making connections, and discovering passions.The simple act of giving our time and energy to a cause actually can benefit our mental and physical health as well as our overall satisfaction in life. Studies have shown that the positive personal impacts of volunteering in this sense can reduce the effects of stress on our body, as well as give us the balance and perspective we need to live more happily. Sounds like a win-win, right? People who regularly volunteer consider themselves to be more satisfied with their lives in general and also rate their overall health higher than people who don’t volunteer. More life satisfaction seems like an excellent side effect of a little effort on our part.
How Can I Get Involved?
Volunteering can be for global causes or ones very close to home. If you’re interested in joining in, the easiest place to look is within your own community, or a cause that you’re passionate about. Actually, volunteering for movements, or causes, we’re passionate about is as much an act of self-care as it is of providing external support.
Volunteering isn’t limited to a certain type of person, you don’t have to be an extrovert with a huge personality to get involved. There are so many different opportunities out there, in so many different areas, and apart from your personality type, your skill sets are valued and appreciated. Look at your skills, and consider how those skills can help people. Being a great communicator would make you a fighting fit for the front line of dealing with people in crisis, but you could also work publicity in raising awareness and visibility for the same organization.
Volunteering for the first time can be daunting, but taking the plunge can open up new opportunities to grow emotionally, mentally and socially, all of which can help your personal development, just as much as you’re helping someone else.
In What Ways Could I Volunteer?
In Your Community
- Soup kitchen – cooking, serving food or washing up.
- Different Institutions – provide childcare, teach Sunday school or seek out connections to those in the community who are struggling or having a hard time.
- Animal rescue centers – exercising animals, cleaning kennels or taking photos of animals for adoption for the website. You could find information on centers that need support through your local city hall, or via the citizen’s information website.
- Junior sports teams – coaching, fundraising or finding sponsorship opportunities.
- Elderly care facilities – entertaining residents through music, dance or simply hanging out, and spending time chatting.
- Donating Blood – someone in the US needs blood every 2 seconds.
- Environmental – litter picking, creating a community garden, or beautifying a local underloved area.
- Political – outreach for local or national candidates or being a voting advocate.
- Social – issues like gender equality, climate change, and homlessness all need grassroots supporters and people willing to raise awareness and facilitate change.
The list really could go on and on, as you can see volunteering, unlike our work life, isn’t limited by our job description or qualifications. We can seek out opportunities that make an impact, small or large, at home or overseas and make ourselves happier in the process.
The Rise of the Remote Opportunity
The voluntary sector was impacted by the pandemic, because of contact restrictions, organizations had to turn to different types of activities and different types of volunteers.
In the UK, the work furlough scheme (government funding to prevent job losses during the pandemic) saw many people at home with more time on their hands. Digital marketing and organizational skills were suddenly more available along with potential new contacts for outreach in new directions. The rise of the remote volunteering opportunity makes volunteering more accessible to us all.
Global organizations like the United Nations, Amnesty International and World Wide Fund for Nature are calling out for volunteers on the ground, and remotely to work on large scale issues like health education, human rights and climate change. Archival projects frequently need volunteers for data input and the blanket coverage of social media has some more traditionally public facing charities and volunteer organizations calling for millennial hands to take the lead and get the word out there to a whole new generation of potential volunteers.
Not Your Typical Volunteer Opportunity
In the US, around 15% of the eligible population donate blood, and only 3% donate yearly. Can you imagine how many lives we’d be able to save if more eligible people decided to donate? Rare blood types like AB-, AB+ or B- are always in demand due to their rarity in the general population, but type O-, which is among the most rare in certain parts of the world, is in high demand as it is considered a universal donor. This means it can be given to anyone in need, before their blood type is known. However, individuals with O- blood (about 7% of the population) can only receive O- blood. So donating blood, especially if you have a rare blood type, can make a big difference.
There’s no need to know your blood type before donating, most organizations will let you know yours when you’ve given blood. There are specific guidelines in every country for who is considered eligible to give blood, and many hospitals hold regular drives. Some countries provide monetary compensation for making a donation, from personal experience in the UK you’ll get some delicious biscuits and a cup of tea, and you’ll know your blood will be used to help someone who needs it.
Dr. Lubna Somjee, a clinical and health psychologist was struck by a random act of kindness in a drive through coffee shop when the driver in front paid for her order. She made a point to pay it forward. According to Dr. Somjee, “altruism activates regions in the brain having to do with pleasure and reward” — altruism was scientifically proven to increase our happiness! “These rushes are often followed by longer periods of calm. Altruism increases social support, reduces feelings of isolation and helps us feel good about ourselves.
Making volunteering part of our own self-care sounds like the ultimate step to self gratification. Volunteering could be a great way to help yourself by helping your community. Have you met Holi – our designated virtual coach? They can help you reap the potential health benefits of volunteering! Join them today and embark with them on the routes to being an active member of a healthy neighborhood, forming meaningful relationships and a plethora of other health aspects that volunteering can help boost!