What is giving back? It can be something as simple as opening a door or carrying a package for someone whose hands are full. It can be as monumental as setting up a trust for a charity that’s dear to you.
And giving back can fall somewhere in between. You can volunteer in your community. You can donate money to cancer research, feeding the hungry, disaster relief or helping animals. You can support your church.
I know I have tightened my belt in recent years and become more cynical about donating money. It’s harder to trust that large organizations will spend it wisely. It seems like everyone is asking for money – from my kids’ school and the local fire department to my college and various telemarketers.
But, I can give freely of my time. And I should. One of my goals for 2013 is to give back more to my community. As I was looking into giving back, I discovered some surprising side effects to volunteering.
However, my motives need to be pure. By being altruistic – showing unselfish concern for the welfare of others – you may be blessed in your own way:
When you give of yourself, you will spread joy to others in ways you may not even realize. And by giving joy to others, it’s hard not to experience some joy yourself. You create a connection that you may not have had otherwise. You make the world a happier place – one act of kindness and generosity at a time.
Giving of yourself is good for your soul. When you see a smile on someone’s face, a lightness in their step or gratitude in their eyes, it’s easy to be happy. The worries and stresses of the day drop away. Volunteering can help you feel better overall, increase your self-esteem and give you greater life satisfaction.
According to a study published in the American Psychology Association’s online journal Health Psychology, volunteers may live longer if their motivation is truly to assist others. Now, as we mentioned earlier, if you are doing it to help yourself, there is no difference in life expectancy.
Volunteering gets you out socializing and interacting with others. Research has even shown that long-term volunteering can help lift depression.
Alleviate chronic pain
Volunteering may help you feel better physically, too. Again, this could be because you are getting out, moving around more than you normally might and spending time with others. If you feel like other people are counting on you, you may be more likely to keep moving even when you are experiencing pain. Or, helping others may take your mind off of your pain. Studies have shown that chronic pain may be reduced or alleviated by volunteering.
So, make plans to give back this year. Get out and give your money and your time. You may be surprised that helping others helps you feel good, too. And that means everybody wins!
How do you give back? Do you have goals to give more of yourself in 2013?