“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
Growing up my parents set an example for me by making careers out of serving others. That example served to reinforce a lesson I learned later in life that we all have a duty and responsibility to lookout for our friends, family, community, and the land we have been blessed with.
In one of my earlier posts The Happiness Factors I highlighted eight of the happiness factors. One of the eight factors that falls in the category of Behaviors and Thoughts is volunteering. Scientific research shows that volunteering leads to many benefits for those who practice volunteering in an effort to help others (see references in notes at the end of the post). Some of those benefits follow
- Mental and physical health
- Life satisfaction
- Lower depressive symptoms
- Lower psychological distress
- Lower mortality and functional inability
As you can clearly see the benefits of volunteering are broad and lead to a richer and longer life. Why might this be the case? Well it probably has to do with a few of the factors indicated in The Happiness Factors post. Volunteering to help others likely engages several factors simultaneously. Including volunteering, it is also likely that a person will also be spending time with friends, experiencing optimistic thoughts, getting exercise, building emotional poise and strength, working towards life long goals, and expressing gratitude.
Let’s look at a personal example from Phillnance’s life to help us really understand how we can possibly engage all of these happiness factors through a practice of volunteering. Over the past year I have engaged with a non-profit called the Travis Manion Foundation who’s mission is to empower veterans and families of fallen heroes to develop character in future generations. By simply engaging with this group of like-minded people I have developed friendships so every time I volunteer I get to spend time with friends. This particular non-profit focuses on helping to develop character in future generations which gives me a sense of optimism. Often times the volunteering takes on some amount of physical activity which contributes to me getting my daily exercise in. In-fact this past week I helped to lead a yoga session which definitely counts as an exercise activity in my book! We often times volunteer at a Veterans’ Home for disabled veterans which helps to build emotional poise and strength while giving me and the others a chance to express our gratitude for their service. Finally, volunteering helps me focus on a life long endeavor to make this country one I am proud to call home.
I wanted to leave you with a final example of what volunteering can mean for you. On my most recent trip to our local Veterans’ Home we brought a group of high school students, as we usually do, and we ran into one of the other volunteers there that day. We typically run into one or two volunteers while we are there but this particular day was something special. The lady who we met, the other volunteer, was having her 99th birthday on that particular day. She was a veteran herself who served as a nurse during World War II and continues to this day to pursue her life-long goal of caring for those who have cared for our freedom. She embodies the benefits you might enjoy if only you volunteer your time to help someone in need. She moved briskly, talked fluidly and coherently, and for all intents and purposes looked much younger than her birth date might suggest (picture below).
I encourage you to find a group of people who support a cause that speaks to you that you can help volunteer with. I know that it has enriched my life and I hope you allow yourself the same opportunity to experience the joy of truly helping someone in need.
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