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The Power of Giving

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volunteerHave you ever done something for someone without expecting anything in return? How did it feel? I bet it felt pretty good. Giving selflessly not only nurtures our hearts and souls, but it has a tremendous impact on all aspects of our lives.

Studies show that giving back enhances our emotional wellbeing. Although many complain that they’re too stressed, or lack the time, energy or money to give back, giving selflessly can produce positive emotions that help to relieve stress and improve one’s quality of life. As a matter of fact, individuals battling with disease who volunteer tend to have a more positive outlook and lower rates of depression, as compared to those who don’t.

When we help others in need, it takes our minds off of our own problems, helps us gain a healthier perspective, and allows us to see the good things we have in life: a strong support network, the love of family and friends, our health, or maybe a career that draws on our passions. Yet, when we only surround ourselves with individuals who seem to “have it all,” it’s easy to lose perspective about our own good fortune. Giving to others allows us to focus more on the good things in life and less on what seems to be missing, thus increasing our own level of satisfaction.

Finally, giving back involves meeting new people and making new friends, which helps build our social, professional and support networks so that we feel more connected to others and the larger community. It increases our sense of being valued, needed and wanted, which has a direct impact on our self-confidence and self-esteem.

Although giving money to various causes is a good thing to do, giving your time and energy to people or an organization is much more rewarding to both you and to them. It doesn’t take a lot of time to help others. Research shows that only 100 hours a year can provide dramatic health benefits. Here are some ways to get involved:

  1. Volunteer through Work: Combine volunteerism with your ambition by volunteering through programs set up at work. Many corporations today, see the value in supporting and partnering with a variety of community service organizations.
  2. Move to Give: There are tons of athletic and sporting events that take place all over the world that benefit charities, causes and non-profit organizations. You can participate in walks, runs, bike races, biathlons, triathlons and other events that benefit research for cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and other diseases. Find a non-profit organization you care about and look for athletic events that help to raise awareness and money for their cause.
  3. Go Back to School: Many public schools are looking for professionals to get involved in after-school programs to tutor students, or to come into guest lecture. Call local schools in your area to find out how you can help.
  4. Get Out of Town: If you love to travel, a great way to give back is to take a volunteering vacation to another country or even to an area within the United States that is in need. There are tons of websites that provide volunteers with information about various programs; however, a few to explore include www.globeaware.org, www.crossculturalsolutions.org, www.transitionsabroad.com and www.i-to-i.com.
  5. Go with Passion: Volunteering should be something you enjoy. Look for opportunities that merge your passion with giving. If you love animals, for instance, volunteer with an organization that works with animals, such as The Seeing Eye (an organization dedicated to raising seeing eye dogs for the blind) or local shelters. If you love to work with your hands, get involved with an organization like Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for underprivileged families, or neighborhood clean up programs. If you’re passionate about your alma mater, get involved with alumni organizations or your advisory council.

Do you volunteer or give of your time? Do you find it rewarding?

52_Cover_ARC-4Excerpted from 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You. Looking to make real, lasting change for better health?  52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You is an easy to follow, week-by-week guide to health and happiness. Get it now at Amazon.com.

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