Merry Kindness: how and why to volunteer this Christmas

2-minute read 

 

If you only read one thing, make it this:

“Volunteering gives us a mild sense of euphoria, or what some refer to as the ‘helper’s high’!”

 

Feel like the entire year has whizzed by and you haven’t nailed any of your ‘be a better human’ goals yet? Fear not, there’s still time to end the year on a high – and you’ll get a ton of good karma in the process.

At this time of year – the time of giving – there are lots of organisations in need of your goodwill. If you’re time poor, it could be worth finding even a few hours to invest in a charitable project – research shows volunteering might even help you achieve that elusive work-life balance.

“Volunteering is positively correlated with health, happiness and positive relationships,” explains positive psychologist Dr Tim Sharp, aka Dr Happy. “When we give, we receive; when we do good, we feel good.”

 

What’s in it for me?

 

Although volunteering is really about helping others, it has a big pay-off for the volunteer as well. It can relieve stress, build your confidence and self-esteem, help you sleep better and also reduce your risk of heart disease. Sounds good, right?

It can also alleviate loneliness, which is important at this time of year, when many people struggle with feelings of isolation.

“The reason we feel happy when we give our time is because it provides us with a sense of accomplishment, meaning and purpose,” Dr Sharp explains. It connects us to others so we feel we belong, and it even gives us a mild sense of euphoria, or what some refer to as the ‘helper’s high’!”

 

How do I choose a cause?

 

In the lead-up to Christmas, many organisations that look after vulnerable people are in need of extra volunteers, including The Smith Family, which needs helpers to deliver toy and gift packs to families, and the Salvos, which needs gift wrappers, hamper assemblers and people to prep Christmas lunches.

Starlight Children’s Foundation requires helpers to grant ‘Starlight Wishes’ for seriously ill children at Christmas, and many organisations across Australia, including Samaritans, Mission Australia and The Exodus Foundation need assistance for community lunches on Christmas Day.

So how to choose? According to Sharp, it’s simple.

“I’d highly recommend starting with something that’s meaningful to you,” he advises. “If you care about humanity then give your time to an organisation that helps those in need; if you’re passionate about mental health then get involved in an organisation that assists those experiencing anxiety or depression. And remember, there are many ways to give – you can give money, but volunteering time, expertise, skills or experience provides many more benefits.”

 

 

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