While living in a small town like Ely, sometimes it’s hard to get fully integrated into the community and feel a sense of belonging. Everyone knows everyone else, and you have a hard time putting yourself into a situation with people who are already comfortable with each other. Meeting people and getting involved in a community can be difficult, but being involved in your community and having a social group improves happiness. So how do we bridge this gap between discomfort and doing the work of getting involved? How do we improve our happiness while living in Ely? The answer is volunteerism: not only does volunteering get you involved in the community and working with others, volunteering on its own is shown to improve a person’s happiness.
When it comes to the most basic roots of happiness, we talk about community, social life, and self. Volunteering helps to improve your relationship to each of these fundamentals. When you volunteer, you tend to feel a deep sense of pride in the work you did for your community, and for the outcome of what your volunteering provided the community with. Not only does this make you feel more connected to your town, it gets you personally connected to people within your community who share your values and interests. You can bond with your community members over why you chose to volunteer for a specific organization, or what led you to live in Ely.
This leads us to the second root of happiness: your social life. Volunteering gets you out into the community and making interpersonal connections. One of the best ways to strengthen current relationships and create new ones is to commit to a collaborative task together. For those of us who might be a little more introverted, volunteering is a good way to put yourself out there while achieving a task for the betterment of the community. Volunteering is also a wonderful family activity! You can take your children out and show them the meaningful impact that volunteering has on their community.
And finally, the third root of happiness is yourself. (Which I would say is the most important!) Many people feel as if they lack a purpose, or they are anxious and depressed about their current standings in life or about their future. Volunteering is actually incredibly beneficial for your mind as well as your body. Volunteering combats depression, anxiety, stress, and anger by improving our social circle. It keeps us in contact with those around us, resulting in building a close and stable social support system around you. Making meaningful connections to other people reduces stress, and volunteering with animals helps reduce both stress and anxiety, as well as improve your mood.
Overall, volunteering makes you happy. It boosts our feeling of self worth within society, and increases our self-confidence. By measuring hormones in the brain, scientists discovered that being helpful to other people makes us feel pleasure: Human beings are wired to give to others, and the more we give the happier we feel. Our self-confidence improves due to our sense of accomplishment, and having a role as a volunteer can help you get a sense of pride and identity. For those of you who have had kids leave for college, or are retired, or have recently lost someone close to you, volunteering is a wonderful way to keep your mind focused on something positive and give you a sense of purpose.
Volunteering is a great way to stay physically active, and there are many other physical health benefits as well. Studies have found that people who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. People who volunteer also tend to feel healthier, have less of a chance of developing chronic pain, have less risk of a heart attack, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, as well as find it easier to cope with everyday tasks and have better thinking skills. You tend to be more physically and mentally active in the community when you volunteer.
The only requirements to volunteer are passion, a positive attitude, and love for your community. Not everyone wants to learn a new skill while they volunteer, and there are plenty of opportunities to help your community with the talent and skills you already possess. It’s just a matter of getting out and using those skills for the betterment of not only your town, but also for yourself. You learn new things about yourself constantly while volunteering and working with others, you become more adaptable, you meet new people, and you feel good. Volunteering is important to your own social, psychological and physical development, as well as being important to your community.
Consider volunteering at a local organization this month!
Sources for this content include:
Thrive by Dan Buettner
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