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5 Ways Volunteering Benefits You

5 Ways Volunteering Benefits You

According to a recent study released by the US Bureau of Labor and Statistics, volunteering in the United States has recently hit a ten-year low. In spite of the general decline, this still means that 62.6 million people spent time volunteering in the last year. While some people may not see the benefit of volunteering, I certainly believe that volunteering can change the outcomes for not just the population being served, but for the volunteer as well. For that reason, I have compiled a list of five ways in which the volunteer benefits from volunteering.

1. Volunteering connects you to other people and to your community.

Whether it is serving meals at a local soup kitchen or reading stories to underprivileged youth, volunteering helps you feel a larger sense of community and the world around you. Instead of staying in your lane with work, socializing, and your own family, you can gain a sense of the lives of those in your community are like via volunteering.

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2. Volunteering gives you a perspective unavailable elsewhere.

While I tend to think of volunteering and non-profit work as a very serious business, the fact of the matter is that people do it because of the emotional appeal. And, by appealing to their own emotions, volunteers are able to open up and learn about life in a way that was previously closed. For example, if you are down on yourself because you cannot quite land the job you want, volunteering at a homeless shelter might make you realize that the job is not everything, nor is it even really all that significant. In fact, volunteering will show that what is valuable is regular old kindness and appreciation.

3. Volunteering looks great on a resume.

Now that I’ve mentioned careers and landing the right job, I must point out that volunteerism really can help you land the job you want. If you volunteer long enough on a repeat basis at an organization you care about, that will show up on resume as dedication to a cause that is above yourself. Think about it: an potential employer spends a ton of their time leafing through resumes that show only how potential employers closed XX account or created YY widget. But how many employers would be impressed by consistent dedication to solving major social ills? Many, is my guess.

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4. Volunteering actually improves your health.

According to a Carnegie Mellon University study, volunteering may not only help your mind, but it may also actually benefit your body. This is especially true for volunteers over age 50. The study in question showed that, of those over aged 50, people who volunteered consistently had lower blood pressure than those who did not. And specific types of volunteering have specific help benefits as well. For example, in older adults, tutoring children helps memory and cognitive function, and activities that require a lot of movement (think of the soup kitchen again) help cardiovascular issue such as blood pressure.

5. Volunteering helps you develop new skills.

Maybe you ended up as an investment banker when you really had a knack for teaching. Or maybe you are a nurse who really has a knack for building houses. Whatever the case may be, volunteering can help you find skills you did not know you have. The only way to find out whether or not you are good at something is to do it consistently, and, if your career path at the moment does not include the area in which you think you need to grow, consider volunteering in that area. It could do a lot of good.

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For those who have been persuaded to volunteer, visit volunteermatch.org or idealist.org to find an opportunity in your community. You won’t regret it.

Featured photo credit: Volunte/All Hands Volunteers via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 17, 2018

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

Read this and stop feeling overwhelmed…for good!

We live in a time of productivity overload.

Everywhere you turn are articles and books about how to be more productive, how to squeeze 27 hours of work out of every 24, how to double your work pace, how to do more and more all in the name of someday getting out of the rat race. Well this is about the side effects of those ideas. If we aren’t multitasking, we feel lazy. If we aren’t doing everything, we feel like we’re slacking. We compare ourselves to others who we think are doing more, having more, getting more and achieving more, and it’s driving us crazy. We feel overwhelmed when we think we have too much to do, too much is expected of us, or that a stressor is too much for us to handle. And we respond by lashing out with emotions of anger, irritability, anxiety, doubt and helplessness.

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This season especially is the most stressful time of year. Between the holidays, final exams, family gatherings and general feelings of guilt that it’s the end of the year, it’s easy to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things you still need to get done. But if you use these tips, not only will you get the important stuff done, you’ll keep your sanity while doing it!

    Is this you?

    Change your thought pattern-stop thinking negatively

    When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing you do is start thinking negatively or begin to resent why it’s your responsibility in the first place! The first thing you have to do is to stop! Stop thinking negatively immediately. Instead, focus on the positive. If you’re stuck in traffic, think of how great it is to have some time to yourself. If you’re rushing trying to get things done by a deadline, think how lucky you are to have a purpose and to be working towards it. If you’re stressing about a final exam, think of how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity of higher education. After you’ve changed your thought patterns, you must then say to yourself “I can do this.” Keep saying it until you believe it and you’re more than halfway to ending feeling overwhelmed.

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    Take a deep breath/change your body posture

    When you’re stressed certain things happen to your body. You start to breath shallowly, you hunch over, you immediately tense up and all that tension drives your feelings of stress even more. Relax! Straighten your posture and take at least ten deep, cleansing, breaths. Force yourself to smile and do something to change your state. It could be as simple as giving yourself a hug or as silly as clapping your hands three times, throwing them up in the air and shouting “I GOT THIS!” Think to yourself, how would I sit/stand if I had perfect confidence and control of the situation?

    Focus on right now

    Now that you are in a better state of mind and are no longer thinking negatively, you need to focus on the here and now. Ask yourself this question: What is the most important thing I have control of and can act on right now? Keep asking yourself this until you have a concrete next step.

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    Take Action

    Now that you know what’s most important and what to do about it, do it! Start with the first step and focus on getting that done. Don’t worry about anything else right now, just on what your first step is and how to get it done. Once that’s done with, determine the next most important step and get that done.

    Let go of what you can’t control (the gambler’s theory)

    Seasoned gamblers understand the importance of due diligence and knowing when to let go. The Gambler’s Theory is that once your bet is placed there is nothing you can do, so you might as well relax and enjoy the process. The time to worry is when you’re figuring out the best odds and making the decision of what to bet when you can actually take action. I used this one a lot in college. After an exam, there is absolutely no point in stressing about it. There’s nothing you can do. And the same goes for feeling overwhelmed. If you can do something about your situation, do it, focus and take action. But if you’ve done what you could and now are just waiting, or if you’re worried about something you have no control over, realize that there’s no point. You might as well relax and enjoy the moment.

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    yoga-422196_1280
      Relax and enjoy the moment

      Stop feeling guilty

      Finally, stop comparing yourself to others. If you are at your wits end trying to keep up with what you think you should be doing, you aren’t being fair to yourself. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t strive for improvement, just don’t go overboard because you feel like you have to. Only you know what’s really important to you, and your personal success journey so focus on what your top priorities are, not someone else’s.

      Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. The important thing is to realize it’s normal and that you can do something about it by taking focused and deliberate action. Happy Holidays!

      Featured photo credit: Stress Therapy via flickr.com

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