Volunteerism is Good for the Heart and Soul

For some people, volunteer might as well be a four-letter word. With eight hours of work facing you daily, in addition to responsibilities at home with family, making sure the kids’ homework is done and everybody is well fed, who has time to spare for anybody else? Around Hampton Roads in particular, a number of organizations and events are driven by the selfless efforts of locals who volunteer their time to see projects to fruition, and it makes you want to ask yourself, “How do they do it?”

One thing to know about volunteering for a non-profit, church, or other community service is that it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. If you were to set aside even one hour in the week to assist with a booth for a charity fund drive, or answer phones at a desk, you’re not only helping somebody in need, you’re helping yourself.

Is volunteering a healthy practice? Of course, even if you’re not doing something strenuous like helping build homes or lifting heavy boxes of donated items. According a recent report put out by Case Western Reserve University, case studies on volunteers have shown that people who give their time and energy to a community project are less prone to depression and heart disease, and tend to live longer. The social aspect of volunteerism, coupled with the mental boost received as the volunteer enjoys a heightened sense of self-worth, contributes to better spiritual and physical health.

To work at least two hours weeks, which amounts to 100 hours a year, can help reduce stress and shift your perception of yourself. Rather than thinking of yourself as the universe’s center, you expand your influence and reap the benefits of your work. People who volunteer tend to be happier, more satisfied with their output, and take that positive attitude – literally – to heart.

Now, there are many ways to volunteer, some of which don’t require too much strenuous exercise. In Hampton Roads especially, you’ll find many opportunities within area churches and organizations – a simple Internet search for “volunteer Hampton Roads” is a great start. Other ways you can give back to the community include:

1) Giving Blood. Blood banks are always in need of donations, particularly during hurricane season and in anticipation of other natural disasters. Check the main Bon Secours website for news on upcoming blood drives, or check with the Red Cross.

2) Go for a Walk. Throughout the year, communities around the region hold special health walks to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other ailments. Strap on your best walking shoes and get some exercise while you help with a great cause.

3) Share Your Skills. Are you a retired teacher, or do you have a knack for drawing? Local museums and non-profits welcome people with various skills to assist in their projects. If you can help maintain a website, or design logos, or act as a docent and welcome visitors, call around and offer your time.

Volunteerism is good for the heart and soul. Give some time back to the community for its continued good health.

Kat Lively writes about Virginia Beach health care and surgical weight loss issues.

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