Volunteering Beats the Holiday Blues
During the holiday season so many people experience depression and isolation. I remember when I got divorced and the first time I did not have my kids for Thanksgiving, it was devastating. I cried and cried. I went to the movies and sat through a double feature. After 4 hours I could not tell you one thing about the movies. I was just in this horrible dark place and nothing could get through. I went to a twelve step meeting and they talked about service. When you are depressed do something for someone else. So I took their advice and I went to Michaels and got some art supplies and I took them over to the local hospital. I did feel better. I talked to some of the nurses at their station and they were so excited to have them. Since then I try and do it every holiday…now I bring cookies to the emergency room.
Over the past two decades there is a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. This research, “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,” established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer had lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.
The Benefits of Volunteering:
- Model civic responsibility for your children
- You get to give back to your community
- Learn to solve real problems
- Connect to others in meaningful ways
- Save valuable resources
- Build self-esteem and confidence
- Reduces stress and make yourself healthier and happier
- Get to learn something new
- Improve your leadership skills
Finally, you get to transform your own life and make a difference in the world.
There is still time to find ways and opportunities to serve over the next month. Look into your heart and see where it will lead. Just ask how may I serve? When you help someone else you help yourself.
Here are a few suggestions to get started.
- Call the VA hospital in your area and see what they need or if there any activities you could help with.
- Call a homeless shelter and ask what they need.
- Bring your dog to a senior center.
- Call the Salvation Army to see if they will be delivering meals or serving meals during the holidays and if you could volunteer to help with either activity.
- Collect hats, gloves and blankets to distribute to the homeless
- Send letters and cards to the armed forces.
- Speak with the volunteering coordinator at your local hospital. Ask her if it would be okay for you to make get well cards for all the children in the pediatric unit that will be there during the holiday.
- Mentor a child
- Make baked goods and, on the holiday, drop by places that might have someone working — animal shelter staff, police, firefighters — and distribute them with your best wishes
Take action: Volunteer today. Please share how volunteering made a difference in your life.