Fall has finally arrived which, for me, is synonymous with not only school, but my volunteering efforts. This week it was acting as a parental supervisor on our school’s cross country meet and handing out pizza slices for lunch. And of course, with Thanksgiving waiting ever-so-patiently this weekend, efforts have also involved corralling groceries to drop off at our supermarket’s food bank donation bin.
Some say it’s a lot but I don’t think so given the amount of hours I’ve seen others give to charities close to their hearts — and it is gratifying work. It’s a different kind of gratification than I get from my job, or even as a parent however. Volunteering makes me feel like I’m making a little bit of a difference, as cliché as that sounds.
With the level of satisfaction I feel from volunteering just a few hours a week, it’s not a stretch to believe this research on how volunteering is good for you and your happiness.
Stephen G. Post, a professor of preventative medicine at New York’s Stony Brook University recently conducted a literature review around the subject of volunteering, satisfaction and happiness. His conclusion? “When we help others, we help ourselves, with the caveat that we need balance in our lives and should not be overwhelmed.” The benefits are so good, notes Post, that he believes doctors should recommend volunteering activities to their patients.
Post, who is also the author of The Hidden Gifts of Helping, notes there are a few things to consider when it comes to volunteering in order to truly reap the benefits. They include:
1. Is the work meaningful to you?
“First, for anyone to be philanthropic in a long-lasting and sustainable way, they have to be focused on something they find particularly meaningful,” he says. “The key is to work with people whose deepest passions match your mission.”
2. Are you using your skills?
“People are most involved philanthropically when they are doing something from a position of strength,” says Post. “They want to feel like they are utilizing their talents, not just spinning their wheels.”
3. Give credit where credit is due
“Finally, bringing people together to acknowledge and celebrate philanthropic activity really does make difference. It definitely has a sustaining quality,” concludes Post.
Hmmm. Guess it’s time I start getting to those annual volunteer luncheons.
Do you volunteer on a regular basis? Tell us in the comments section how it makes you feel.
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