It’s common among regular volunteers to hear them say that: “When volunteering, the volunteer often receives more than what he/she gives of their time.” What is it about volunteering on a regular basis that makes this activity so meaningful and fulfilling? How can spending your time “working for free” (as some might put it) make anyone happy?
Living your life in an altruistic way will make you happier. Don’t believe me? Believe the Science. Studies have shown that nuns have happiness levels higher than any other group! Why is that? What makes devoting one’s life to others such a fulfilling one? It gives you a sense of belonging, purpose in life and increases your sense of community. But most of all, it helps you realize you’re not alone in the world and small random acts of kindness do change the reality around you.
According to Viktor Frankl’s theory of Logotherapy, the search for meaning and purpose in life is one of Man’s greatest dilemmas but also it is achieving the knowledge of what’s the meaning of your life and taking responsibility for it, that will “set you free” for any psychological restraints you might have.
Sense of community, purpose and belonging
By no means does this article intend to make you join a religious organization in order to make you happier and satisfied about your life! I brought up the studies about nuns as just an example. But what these multiple studies really demonstrate is that living inside the bubble surrounding your life (job, home) will leave you with a sense of emptiness and disconnection from everyone else. Since birth, all we human beings seek is to belong, to connect with other human beings at a deeper level. It’s not the amount of time shared with someone that will give a sense of fulfillment, it is the quality of the time shared with someone, and the depth of human relationships.
Sharing your time with others will provide you with a deep sense of belonging to a community, where the word solidarity will still mean something. Soli-what? Yes, giving just for the sake of doing it without expecting anything in return except for some gratitude! Again you don’t believe me? Try this simple exercise in your life: have an spontaneous act of kindness to anyone – a smile, a comforting word, hold the elevator for someone – and see what happens. You might just make someone’s day.
Should I do some volunteering work to feel happier?
That’s up to you. Like any other activity, if it doesn’t satisfy you, don’t do it. Volunteering can only be a rewarding experience when done with genuineness. It has to come from the heart to work. And don’t think that volunteering will magically heal all your problems, you have to feel good about yourself in order to help others. Again take responsibility and don’t expect others to be happy for you.
A few tips for the volunteer wannabe:
- Start with small activities. Why don’t you try getting engaged in a small volunteer work in your community or even job? There are many one-day volunteering activities that you can try out.
- Areas of interest. What are your areas of interest and what kind of people do you see yourself working with? Do you love children, the elderly? Are you keen on sports or worried about the environment or love animals? Answer this question first, then start looking for volunteer projects near you.
- Willingness to commit. You cannot volunteer to anything if you’re not committed to it. Volunteering is not like a job but it requires responsibility. After all, there are people depending on you.
- Feeling satisfied about it. If volunteering does not fill your heart with joy or take too much of your time, it’s not a rewarding experience. On the other hand, if you feel like it makes you a better person and you feel like you’re making a difference in the world, then you’re on the right track. Keep doing it!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/25000888@N08/2536175241