We are starting the week with a wild suggestion: take a day off from the normal craziness of errands, work, school, and well, responsibilities. This isn’t about wellbeing and the need to create space for our mental health – though we agree with that, and this certainly is an element of that. Today, we are suggesting you take a day off to volunteer.
While many of feel like our time and energy is already heavily tasked and there is little space for additional commitments, taking a day off to volunteer actually can serve to replenish both. Volunteering can be incredibly enriching and satisfying, bringing a calm to our minds that are struggling to multitask. It can also be restorative – by focusing on others’ needs and how we can be in service of them, it can provide some much needed perspective on the daily grind of traffic, irritating customer service calls, or the normal hustle and bustle of the day.
There is something freeing about putting away our cellphones, laptops, and other demands on our time and to be present with others – both service recipients as well as those who are volunteering or working besides you. There is something profound about making the decision to give your time and energy to another that seems to be significantly different than obligatory volunteering at a child’s school or perhaps a faith based organization where the volunteer activity immediately is added to the list of ‘to-do’s’.
Volunteering with friends or family members creates a rich, shared experience. From mucking out stalls together and having a laugh about being covered in it to relying on one another’s strength to heave down a mold infested wall from a hurricane damaged home with your siblings. It promotes feelings of connectedness and belonging to a community – both of which decrease feelings of depression and loneliness.
Serving in a volunteer role can be incredibly humbling as well. It reminds us of the great privileges and opportunities we have. Focusing on gratitude has been proven to increase happiness and feelings of satisfaction. It can be a neutral environment where we don’t come armed with our normal guarded selves making it easier to connect with others, particularly those we normally wouldn’t have the opportunity or reason to otherwise interact with.
For children, taking a day off from school can be a surprisingly thrilling experience. It becomes a special day for kids not tied to getting a present, or getting anything physical, but rather, about giving. Volunteer responsibilities can help children develop feelings of independence and autonomy. Unlike holidays or weekends filled with the birthday party circuit, or sports games, or other activity obligations, this day off is uniquely special for children.
While the most impactful volunteering comes with a long-term commitment and sustained experiences, even taking just one day off to volunteer can punctuate the routine with feelings of gratitude, inter connectedness, and satisfaction.
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