Did you know volunteering will help you reach a great state of happiness and hope? When you give your time to others you experience an euphoria known as “helper’s high”. Researchers can see the neural “glow” from helping others on fMRI scans.
When you’re generous to others, you’re also generous to yourself. Your entire being undergoes a feel-good transformation at the cellular level when you support others; which boosts everything from your psychological outlook to heart and immune system. You’re also choosing to be “other centered,” which streams wellbeing back to yourself and can help you live longer. Giving your time to others is powerful medicine, research shows volunteering can:
- Help you stay physically healthy
- Combat depression and create happiness
- Increase self-confidence
- Bring fun and fulfillment to your life
- Sharpen or learn new skills
- Advance your career
Giving doesn’t have to be complicated or grand. It can be a formal, long-term commitment such as working at a shelter on a regular basis. Or, giving can be informal, a one-time interaction such as sharing an encouraging smile or a gentle hug. Start by paying closer attention to the people and situations you encounter as you go about your day-to-day life; soon you will recognize opportunities to give.
Use the following questions to find a coordinated volunteering opportunity that best matches you.
- What causes or issues matter the most to me?
- How much time can I commit?
- Do I want an ongoing, regularly scheduled assignment or short-term assignment?
- Do I like to work with adults, children, or animals?
- How much responsibility am I ready to take on?
- Do I prefer to be behind the scenes or do I want to take a more visible role?
- Do I want to work alone, with a group, friends, or family?
- What do I want to learn/experience? What are my goals? What am I interested in?
- Am I willing to participate in a training course, or do I want to start volunteering immediately?
The more you know about what you want to do, the more valuable you will be to the organization you join as a volunteer. You’re donating your valuable time, it’s important that you enjoy and benefit from your volunteering. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself. Take time to ensure the volunteer position is a good fit and to communicate openly with the people you’re working with in the volunteer organization. Ask questions. Make sure you know what’s expected. Don’t be afraid to make a change. Speak up if your experience isn’t what you expected; talk to the organization about changing your focus or consider looking for another match.
Are you convinced and ready to volunteer a small portion of your time? Are you wondering where you can find volunteer opportunities? The following list may help you identify a match for you.
- Local animal/rescue shelters or wildlife/nature centers
- Senior centers or libraries
- Parks and conservation organizations
- Service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs
- Community theaters, museums, and monuments
- Youth organizations, sports teams, and after-school programs
- Places of worship such as churches or synagogues
Persistence pays. The application, screening, and training may take up to several weeks to complete. Do not get discouraged if a program does not get back to you, or if a program requires several “hoops” to go through before you can start volunteering. Rewards from volunteering are well worth the effort, so hang in there and keep trying.
The most valuable skills you bring to any volunteer experience are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to do whatever is needed, and a positive attitude
Go out and give, seek ordinary moments and make them extraordinary.
Life truly is a special occasion. Enjoy yourself.