Volunteer work is designed to benefit a particular community or area. However, as research has shown the benefits go well beyond the projects and people that are outwardly being helped. The act of performing community service has both emotional and psychological benefits for the people who give of their time. Donating time and effort to a worthy cause increases the amount of endorphins released by the brain and other parts of the body. And in turn, endorphins can reduce stress and promote positive feelings, leading to reduced pain and increased longevity.
So, if you are looking for a quick endorphin fix, here are a few suggestions for small projects that make it easy to give of yourself:
- Speak for an hour or less before groups about the importance of providing one’s full attention to the road. Joel Feldman has developed a very powerful presentation that is easy to deliver called End Distracted Driving. This community service is particularly good for the soul because the impact is immediate and the groups to which the presentation is given are easily influenced – typically high school and grade school students. Knowing you can make a difference in saving even one life is a very powerful role to play in your community and is quite the endorphin producing activity. For more information about how to get involved and donate an hour or two of your time to this worth cause, visit EndDD.org
- Read or help children with homework at a local Boys & Girls Club. These clubs are always looking for volunteers to give even an hour or two helping children with homework, or playing board games, basketball and kickball with children of all ages, from kindergartners to teenagers. For more information about how to give of yourself to a Boys & Girls Club visit bcga.org.
- Volunteer a few hours at a local Habitat for Humanity work site. There are so many different kinds of opportunities available in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, from the very physical at home sites to organizing donations at a ReStore. You can apply skills or specialized knowledge that you may already have or learn something entirely new. Depending on the work site and the stage of construction the house is in when you volunteer, you might be painting walls, shingling the roof, framing the house, or simply providing food to the workers. It all depends on the amount of time you have to give and what you are comfortable doing. For more information about how to get give of your time to Habitat for Humanity or to find a work site near you visit habitat.org.
- Provide supplies to a local food pantry or shelter. Food pantries and shelters are always accepting donations for those in need. In most areas, you can simply call 2-1-1 to get the names of local food pantries and shelters and to find out what they need.
Volunteering one’s services in the community creates a healthier attitude about a person’s role in society. It also creates a broader understanding of a person’s impact on others and can help one learn to interact with people of all different cultures and backgrounds. And it certainly helps to provide a sense of purpose. Research conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service has established that there are actual health benefits to volunteering: “Those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.”
Depending on the type of service chosen, a volunteer can also gain or strengthen valuable life skills. For example, donating time to speak about ending distracted driving can improve public speaking skills. Volunteering to help children with homework can improve problem-solving abilities, whereas practical skills using tools can be gained by volunteering at a Habitat for Humanity site while helping to build homes for families in need. In turn, gaining new skills and strengthening abilities can boost confidence and instill a sense of pride in oneself.
Of course, there are many more ways to participate in community service than those listed above, and sometimes one needs to try many types of projects before finding one that really fits. Although endorphins are not addictive, you may just find that once you get started, you want to do more.