The holiday season is all about giving, which is why so many people across Michigan take the time to help those less fortunate and support local organizations. Not only do these kinds of actions impact your community and the well-being of your neighbors, but a recent review of 40 studies found that giving back and being selfless can result in some pretty big mental health benefits, too.
The research shows that people who regularly volunteer have a lower risk of depression, higher life satisfaction, better sense of well-being and 22 percent lower risk of death. The review also notes that to get the most benefits from volunteering, you should do it regularly (an hour a month is a good goal).
Other studies have looked at why giving back is so beneficial and they found that it activates the reward center of your brain, causing it to release the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine elevates your mood and triggers a response in the brain, leaving you feeling happier and more satisfied.
No matter where you live, there are organizations in your community always looking for a helping hand. If you aren’t sure of where to start, here are some ideas:
- Volunteer at a local food bank. You can help sort and box food for families in need or deliver the packaged boxes.
- Sign up to be a youth mentor at an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, where you can help shape a child’s future and lead them toward success.
- Prepare and serve meals through local charities, like Ronald McDonald House or Meals on Wheels.
- Volunteer at a local hospital. You could escort visitors, spend time with patients or provide a helping hand by cleaning or doing maintenance work.
- Make a difference at a senior center by helping residents rediscover their passions or maintain their physical health.
The bottom line is that volunteering is important both on an individual and communal level, plus it just feels good to do. If you liked this post, you might also enjoy these other blogs:
- Beyond the Card: U.P. Program Helps Kids Smile
- Blue Cross Volunteers Help Beautify Community with ARISE Detroit
- Beyond the Card: A Veteran Finds His Home
Photo credit: Matthias Zomer