Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Registered Play Therapist
Did you know that giving back does the brain and body good? Well it does. While there are many studies attesting to this fact, I can tell you first hand that volunteering has helped me personally be happier and healthier. In his book Start With Why Simon Sinek points out that people aren’t interested in what you do but Why you do it. There are many reasons to Why people volunteer. I started volunteering pretty consistently about 10 years ago. First it was to help gain experience as a counselor. I kept voluntrering because of how pumped up I felt after each outing. For me the experience of giving of my time, talent, and treasure is priceless. The smiles on the kids faces, the sore muscles from building a playground, the sticky fingers from sorting food…. it’s all worth it! At the end of the day Why for me is about knowing it’s good for my happiness, health and genuinely has an impact on those who have a need.
What does it mean to say that volunteering is good for your body and brain. Just what it sounds like. In a recent study by Carnegie Mellon adults over 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to have high blood pressure than non-volunteers. Also according to a study in Social Science and Medicine a volunteers’ odds of being “very happy” rose 7% for those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four months. Among weekly volunteers, 16% felt very happy. In this day and age anything that can help increase happiness is a must do, if you ask me.
In their article on volunteering the Self Help Guide list several additional benefits to volunteering
- Volunteering connects you to others– you can make new contacts and friends, increase social and relationship skills, bond with your family
- Volunteering is good for your mind and body– helps counteract stress, anger, depression, and anxiety. Increases self confidence, provides a sense of purpose, can increase physical health depending on the type of work you are doing.
- Volunteering can advance your career– Teach you valuable job skill or help you build upon skills you already have.
The Corporation for National and Community Service lists increased problem solving skills and strengthening communities as other benefits. As you can imagine there are many benefits to sharing your time, talent, and treasure with others.
Now that we have talked about the Why to volunteering, it’s important to cover the How. Here are some helpful questions to ask yourself:
- Where does one get started?
- How do you choose what’s the best way to volunteer for you?
- How would you like to spend your time?
- What would you like learn?
- Are you looking to make new connections?
- Do you prefer to work alone?
- What population would you like to work with children, adults, animals?
You might also want to consider
- Would you like to volunteer from home? Yes this is an option. Check out ways to do so here
- What skills can you bring to the table?
- How much time would you be willing to commit?
- What causes are important to you?
- Would you like to be front and center or behind the scenes?
One suggestion to get started would be to volunteer in several different areas. I am fortunate to be part of Kiwanis International. Kiwanis is a volunteer organization that focuses all of their efforts in helping improve the lives of children. What I like about being a part of this organization is the variety of projects I get to participate in. Some of the projects I have participated in through Kiwanis are: building playgrounds, working a chili cook-off to raise money for Special Olympics, cutting watermelons for the Watermelon 5k in Winter Park, attending the Kiwanis Convention, stuffing backpacks for kids without school supplies,and mentoring kids in service leadership programs. I could go on an on with all the ways Kiwanis helps improve the lives of kids and gives me opportunities to volunteer. Instead I’ll just post the link for FL Kiwanis and you can read all about the wonderful things Kiwanis does one child one community at a time all over the world. Kiwanis is my way of volunteering however I have many clients and friends who choose to give back by petting cats and dogs at The Pet Alliance, spending time at Give Kids the World, or sorting food at Second Harvest Food Bank. The possibilities are basically endless. If you can think it I bet there is a need.
Below are general tips put out by The Corporation for National and Community Service for those of you who are ready to get started
- 10 Tips on Becoming a Volunteer
- Tips for Youth Who Want to Volunteer
- Tips for Boomers Who Want to Volunteer
- Tips for College Students Who Want to Volunteer
- Tips for Families Who Want to Volunteer
There really is no one way to give back. Find a place you feel you would like to give your time, talent, and treasure and get started. Heck bring a friend, they won’t be disappointed I can promise you that. Giving back does a brain and body good so your friends will thank you.
If you are struggling with wanting to volunteer but anxiety, depression or any other issue is holding you back one of the counselors at our office can help. Give us a call at 407-355-7378 or send us an email and we will help you find the counselor who will work best with your needs and help get you out there sharing your time, talent, and treasure.