by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, February 2013
Community service expands your world and can be done at any point in your life. Even if you are in the throes of building your career, raising your children, or taking care of your parents, there is something you can do to serve outside the parameters of your life. Giving touches us in ways beyond our imagination. Each of us can do something to IMPROVE the world. If we look at how much there is to do we may feel overwhelmed and discouraged. So begin small and see how you can make a difference, one idea, one action, one change at a time.
Research confirms that giving also benefits our health. When people are open to their connectedness, and engage the world through acts of compassion and concern it almost inevitably benefits their own physical and mental health. It is a win-win situation. Finding something you believe in; to be of service to another or to a cause, helps improve someone else's situation and, incidentally, will likely contribute to increasing your well being as well. Why? Because you incorporate some of the elements important to happiness such as: recognizing and experiencing a positive emotion; being fully engaged in something; having meaningful, positive relationships; being part of something larger than yourself; believing that your life has meaning; feeling a personal, spiritual connection; and setting and achieving goals.
Clearly, when considering giving the DEEPEST motivation needs to come from a concern and compassion for others. It is good to know, however, that helping others is good for you, too. Doing something out of a generous kindness has an effect on your physical body.
The more we engage with others, the more that health benefit comes back to the person who is extending that effort. We don't do it because we want to feel better, but the fact is, when we help with an open heart, we inevitably do feel better.