As a limited resource, time has great value to us – we don’t want to squander it. We use our time to accomplish the things we need to do as well as those we dream about But our time has value to others as well. Volunteering your time is a way to contribute to the community and to our own soul. It’s a way to work for free yet walk away feeling richer than ever – it’s undergoing personal growth. Researchers at the London School of Economics discovered that Americans who volunteered regularly rated themselves as happier, and that “happiness” index rose as the frequency of volunteering sessions increased.*
The simple act of contributing to the community doesn’t cost much but pays dividends you may not have considered. Helping others clearly aides in the health, well-being, and sense of worth for those you help. It also infuses the volunteer with a lasting sense of value, pride, and positivity. And while you spend time without expecting anything return, you may eventually reap the benefits of a stronger community.
If you haven’t volunteered, it can seem daunting, but knowing yourself, your interests, and what you have to offer is a great place to start. What causes do you support? Do you have a talent or skill that would be useful to a particular organization? Where do you feel you could have the most impact? Once you’ve answered those questions, do the research in your community to find where you’d like to help. Most organizations have their own websites, but often a community will have a site where you can find several, varied opportunities.
If possible, recruit a few friends or bring your whole family. The shared experience of helping others increases the benefits of volunteering. Giving back to your community is like working out – while it’s not always easy to find the time to fit it into your busy schedule it’s a rewarding experience that will encourage you to continue making it a part of your lifestyle. The first time you volunteer may seem overwhelming. It’s somewhat like a first day on the job. Go in with an open mind and a willingness to do whatever it takes, but in this case you can also operate with the realization that you are appreciated simply for showing up!
Volunteering with others is a wonderful, shared experience – you can make new friends, improve your social skills and make important connections. Undergoing personal growth is also a benefit – volunteering gives you a sense of purpose. And for teenagers or even job seekers, the act of contributing to the community looks great on a college application or resume.
You may not gain monetarily from volunteering, but by doing so you can certainly enrich your life as well as the lives of others.