“Stop Me Before I Volunteer Again!”
This silly statement appears on my refrigerator in the form of a magnet that my dear husband gave to me for my birthday one year. Apparently, either I was volunteering too much, or complaining about volunteering too much!
Well, once again, I am finding myself volunteering for more and more tasks and organizations, and I began wondering if there was something more to this than my inability to say “no, thanks”. Sure, I like to think of myself as a “people-pleaser”, but for the most part, I must be getting something out of it…or else I would not keep saying “Yes! Sign me up!”
So, after some quick research in the health literature, I find that there are numerous health benefits for volunteering (perhaps I am not being altruistic after all!):
1. Volunteer work improves overall well-being as it enhances social-support networks, which can help lessen heart disease (through reduction in heart rate and blood pressure)
2. Volunteerism can improve self-esteem, increase endorphin production and enhance your immune system (which us moms need, as our kiddos seem to be sick every-other month!)
3. Volunteering can even help recovery time after surgery. There is some medical evidence that helping others can strengthen immune system and improve stamina
4. Volunteering can act as a buffer to stress. Who does not want less stress in their lives?!
How can ADDING another obligation, such as volunteering, to my "to do" list help to create LESS stress in my life?! Well, one study might have the answer to this question.
The Census Bureau's American Time Use Survey (did you know there was such a survey?!) disproves the assumption that "people with more time on their hands volunteer more often". It actually happens the other way around: those with less leisure time are volunteering more! The part I found particularly interesting: in a typical week, volunteers spend 15 hours watching TV. The non-volunteers? They spend 23 hours/week watching TV. Plus, most people volunteered one-hour weekly (not an extra 8 hours, as the above would have you conclude), meaning: the volunteers are not replacing "TV-viewing" with "helping-others" on an hour-to-hour basis..far from it!
Are you saying, "Wow! How can I sign up!?". Actually, I assume many of you are already volunteering through your neighborhood, school, church or other local organization, as most cities are doing well with volunteerism. According to Volunteering in American.gov, [my city] is 5th (among their pre-selected 50 large cities). (you can research your location, too) 35% of us are volunteering, with 30% volunteering in religious groups, 26% in education, 20% in social service and 3% in sports/arts (the other categories were health, civic service and other).
We would love to hear how you are helping to make a difference in your community through volunteering, whether it is once a year or once a week. If you are interested in volunteering with a local organization, a quick search online will provide numerous locations (church or hospital, for example) or task (deliver food). For more information about volunteering in general: National & Community Service at www.getinvolved.gov
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