I am always seeking out healthy habits to combat not so great ones, and one that I have recently become acquainted with in 2019 is the act of volunteering to find a sense of purpose, belonging, appreciation, and gratitude.
Fresh out of college, I worked for a non-profit in Southern California. It was a great agency that did great work helping the droves of homeless people that lined the streets of many SoCal suburbs. With mild(ish) weather, that region was popular for homelessness, as braving the elements wasn’t nearly as difficult as it might be in a place like Chicago.
I learned about the importance of volunteers through that job, but even at that, I was pretty young and not yet fully aware of the scope of our world and all of its many problems. The truth is, even on days when you feel like nothing more could possibly go wrong and you’ve hit the bottom of the bottom, someone else out there has had it so much worse. There is always a lower level, believe it or not, and working around homelessness renews your sense of gratitude for everything you have.
If you have not volunteered before, there are many opportunities for you to choose from, some of which can be completed from home (remote; take-home clerical work). I don’t think the challenge in volunteerism is choosing the opportunity, but rather it’s in putting the right intention behind your volunteered time.
If you approach volunteering as if it is a chore, something to burden you and drain your free time, you won’t have a very magical experience as you serve as a big sister to a young girl in need of guidance or serve food to families at the soup kitchen. Instead, I think you should approach it as an opportunity to learn, be helpful, and be grateful. The world needs all three of those in order to prosper, and you can get all three in one convenient action.
The effect tends to be the same for everyone; volunteering brings about a sense of joy, contribution, and happiness, and often leads the volunteer to want to help out with a worthy cause again. Volunteering also serves as a mood booster in helping you feel useful, like you matter, and like your contributions are important. If you aren’t necessarily getting this in your personal or professional life, you might benefit even more from finding a volunteer opportunity to take part in.
You do not need to volunteer often and slave your life away for free at anything in order to do your part and reap some residual benefit, but I encourage you to at least check into volunteer opportunities available to you that you can find fulfillment in. Volunteering is also a useful way to build experience if you have not yet finished school, or you are looking to break into an industry that you have no prior experience in. Whichever opportunity you choose, be sure to approach it openly and authentically.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, yogini, and host of The Midday Reset Podcast. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children.Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.