The Importance of Volunteering

If you lived in a world abound with altruism unity and kindness, besides adhering to this cultural norm, your brain and the expression of your genes would physically change to adopt this altruistic mindset.1 & 4

1. Benefits to mind and body.

Volunteering for a fulfilling cause and making meaningful connections leads to an oxytocin boost that, research shows, can mitigate stress and anxiety.2

Volunteering’s ability to mitigate loneliness and stress can help you avoid many diseases and stay physically healthy. Studies have linked volunteering to a lower mortality rate.6

2. Empower one another

Save someone’s life by volunteering for suicide prevention. Build a home for a family in need. There are countless ways to better the lives of others.

3. Meet people

The type of people you meet volunteering are the type of people you want in your life. Someone who helps rehabilitate animals or picks up trash at park is likely pretty goddamn friendly. Several studies indicate people experience less loneliness when they volunteer.3

4. Finding Purpose

People find solace in religion because they’re acknowledging a cause bigger than themselves. This same peacefulness can be found in volunteering. This is likely because it cultivates an outward empathetic focus to those around you. Research supports this claim and shows you can actually bias your brains rewards system for others rather than yourself.4

5. Gain Perspective

When you bear witness to the lives of the homeless, disabled and deprived of your community you will likely find the trivial problems of your life far less important.

Volunteer abroad, see the world, learn about world issues, and see things from a more open-minded perspective.

Volunteer Ideas:

Animals and The Environment:

Work at an Animal Shelter or Train a Service Dog

Interacting with animals has shown to reduce blood pressure, stress, anxiety and pain.5

You could additionally save some of the 4,000 pets killed by shelters in the US daily, and get some unconditional love in the process.

Raise Awareness for Conservation

Raise awareness through wildlife photography or conservation journalism.

Plant some shit!

Empower Children:

By volunteering for children, you show them how good it feels to volunteer and give back. This emphatic nature will undoubtably radiate to them.

Assist Disabled Children

Provide encouragement and inspiration to disabled children. Share your love of science, music and reading with them.

Teach Classes

Tutor kids teach them to read and write. Teach kids to paint. Teach kids a musical instrument. Teach kids a second language (especially helpful for refugee kids).

Feeding Children

There are numberless starving children in the world. Likely many in your town. Check with local schools and daycares to see if they accept food donations.

General Community Service:

Volunteer to Advance your Career

Help the Elderly

Deliver flowers, groceries, or just hang with them.

Do Some Shit You Enjoy

Volunteer at an art museum, national park, do something fulfilling.

References:

  1. Sonne, James W H, and Don M Gash. “Psychopathy to Altruism: Neurobiology of the Selfish-Selfless Spectrum.” Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers Media S.A., 19 Apr. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5917043/.
  2. Watson, Stephanie. “Volunteering May Be Good for Body and Mind.” Harvard Health Blog, 30 Oct. 2015, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428.
  3. Hogg, Eddy. “Constant, Serial and Trigger Volunteers: Volunteering across the Lifecourse and into Older Age.” Voluntary Sector Review, vol. 7, no. 2, July 2016, pp. 169–190., doi:10.1332/204080516×14650415652302.
  4. Karns, Christina M, et al. “The Cultivation of Pure Altruism via Gratitude: A Functional MRI Study of Change with Gratitude Practice.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 27 Nov. 2017, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2017.00599/full.
  5. Beetz, Andrea, et al. “Psychosocial and Psychophysiological Effects of Human-Animal Interactions: the Possible Role of Oxytocin.” Frontiers in Psychology, Frontiers Research Foundation, 9 July 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3408111/.
  6. Konrath, Sara, et al. “Motives for Volunteering Are Associated with Mortality Risk in Older Adults.” Health Psychology, vol. 31, no. 1, 2012, pp. 87–96., doi:10.1037/a0025226.

Why you should read and journal everyday.

“Keep a notebook. Travel with it, eat with it, sleep with it. Slap into it every stray thought that flutters up in your brain. Cheap paper is less perishable than gray matter, and lead pencil markings endure longer than memory.” — Jack London

You likely have thoughts everyday that have never been thought by anyone ever. If you are mindful to these thoughts there is a world of potential awaiting in your ideas and daydreams.

Why journal?

You can capture your thoughts and ideas by writing them down and using creative expressions. Your mind leaps over gaps in your thinking. When you write ideas down you force yourself to articulate them, and thus fill these gaps. Your ability to articulate your thoughts is dependent upon how well you can use your medium. (Your experiences and what you’ve read help a great deal.) We must capture them because it’s too easy to forget how you have changed as a person. What virtues and things are important to you? To what do you aspire? Maybe you’ve had the answers in the back of your head. Maybe you never took a step back to ask yourself; and maybe thirty years go by and you never do.

It’s too easy to get caught up in life. Occasionally when I am talking with a friend there will be an eventual pause in the conversation. In an instant I can see their body grimace, and cutting through the awkward silence I can hear their brain scream for stimulation prompting them to grasp for their pockets and purses. Twitter to the rescue!

It didn’t used to be this way. We used to have large chunks of the day in which all we could do was think. We spent hours in meditive states, stalking animals, gazing up at the stars. You may argue that before cellphones there was TV, and before that people could engross themselves in books. However, reading does not cause an increasingly lagging attention span. This brings us to an important point…

Why read?

Information ≠ knowledge. My friend from the previous example is not gauging the nuances of Proust’s opinions on the meaning of life; rather, they’re more likely engrossed in the feed of a celebrity twitter fight.

Reading and fully experiencing others lives gives us perspective. We expand our humanity, tolerance, and knowledge. It is in the words of great thinkers that we may find important life truths. There is a sea of potential. Your consciousness is the vessel that you use to traverse this sea. When your consciousness interacts with ethical and moral dilemmas you decide based on your experiences and knowledge.

Make time to read and write every day.

We are shackled by obligations. Sometimes, in writing, reading and experiencing the profound, I come up and take a breath to realize “shit, I’ve been on autopilot for the last 5 days!” This is because it takes introspective experiences to escape the recurrent thought of “what’s next?” Yet, I know others may spend their lives in that state. Nowadays, even though we are aware nobody has our mind, our perspective, and our ideas we never take the time to express and explore ourselves. I urge you to make time. Journal, and impart your ideas and what you want from this finite life. Read, and travel to another world where you may discover and create yourself.