Giving Improves Your Health
‘Tis the season to be jolly and it’s also a great opportunity to share that jolliness with others. You probably already knew this, but what you might not know, is that the act of giving back has a tangible, long-lasting impact on your physical and mental health.
Incredible, right? We thought so too. So we compiled a list of some scientifically-proven ways that aiding your community also improves your wellbeing, as well as some info and resources so you can get started right now.
Have a big heart? Keep it healthy by putting it to use. Research shows that weekly volunteering decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces inflammation, enhances cholesterol levels and fights against obesity.
Nimble Brains and Bodies
Working in the name of the greater good has been proven to heighten physical and mental movement. One study found that older adults who volunteered with a youth mentoring program experienced improved cognitive function. The same group saw greater flexibility, stamina and mobility as a result of the study.
Better Mental Health and Mood
Being a do-gooder is a great way to put yourself in the right headspace. Community involvement gives people a sense of purpose and creates an impressive list of mental benefits including:
- Reduced Risk of Depression: Connecting with people has a way of releasing stress and anxiety. While focusing on something outside of your daily shuffle, you’ll feel relieved. And more importantly, you’ll feel grateful for the little things in life.
- Increased Happiness: Humans are happy when they‘re giving back. During an act of altruism, hormones such as serotonin and dopamine are released, creating positive associations between good deeds and happiness.
- Higher Self-Confidence: Volunteering and a sense of pride go hand in hand. By spending time creating a better world, you’re directly influencing your self-identity and boosting your confidence as a global citizen.
The most striking relationship between health and volunteering is the impact on mortality. One study found that that the risk of death is reduced by 47% in civically engaged people. Piggy-backing off of the last point on mental health, developing a purpose in life aids in successful, healthy aging. In other words, donating a few hours of your time a week can add some years to your life.
How You Can Help Your Community
Across the board, research has found that those with a sense of purpose are healthier in mind, body and spirit. Hopefully at this point, you’re interested but might not know where to start. That’s what we’re here for! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
We tend to hang on to things that have sentimental value, despite the fact that they’re simply not useful anymore. Don’t worry, we’re all guilty of it. Donating is one way to ensure that your old high school sweater and those adorable stuffed animals continue being loved without collecting dust.
Share Your Story
Countless organizations rely on storytelling to connect with those they aim to help. If you’ve gone through a personal experience that could help someone else, this form of volunteering might be right for you. Battles are seldom fought alone and places like the American Cancer Association, MQ and others are connecting people through the power of narrative.
Send Some Love
Sometimes, all people need is a handful of encouraging words. Organizations that send goods to soldiers, cards to sick children, and letters to the elderly are always looking for some postage. Who said the art of snail mail is lost?
Become a Mentor
During their formative years, kids and teens often need a strong adult presence in their lives to motivate and inspire them. Personal success can be shared. Head to I Could Be to empower a child with your support and perspective.
Volunteer Opportunities in the Bay Area
If you’re in the Bay Area and you’re looking for some local spots to get involved with, we’re happy to help the search. The following places are looking for extra hands during oncoming holidays.
- Bay Area Hunger: If you’re interested in helping the hungry, Bay Area Hunger is a great resource with information on the many food banks in the area. They provide a handy map so you can easily find a bank that’s accessible from your home or work. The site even has details about upcoming benefits and how to donate.
- Urban Releaf: This is the perfect organization for nature-loving folks. Urban Releaf strives to bring greenery back to Oakland through education and hands-on volunteer programs. They have weekly tree plantings scheduled, which makes it easy for you to join in the fun.
- Project Night Night: This national service provides homeless children with nighttime comforts such as blankets, books and stuffed animals. Volunteers order and stuff tote bags to be sent out to some of the 1.5 million homeless families in the United States.
- Meals on Wheels: Senior citizens are often in need of a little extra love, companionship and nourishment during the holidays. This nonprofit makes it easy for you to prepare and deliver food to seniors in your area.
- East Bay SPCA: If you’re looking for something a little more “wild” this season, the SPCA has plenty of initiatives you can get involved in. Animal advocacy, animal care and behavioral training are just a few of the many ways this organization lets you help your local furry friends.
Like a balanced diet and frequent exercise, volunteering is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle regimen. So we encourage you to get out there and give back this holiday season!
If you happen to find yourself too under the weather to do so, come to one of our four locations or schedule a Mobile Home Visit or Virtual Visit for a quick check up from the comfort of your home or office.