The holiday season is known as a Season of Giving. This year many givers are discovering there are empty store shelves due to a supply chain problem, and even if an item is well stocked there are empty pockets due to a pandemic problem. However, there is one gift everyone can give anyone, and that’s the gift of themselves.
This is why volunteering goes up over the holidays. Some studies say volunteering rises by more than 40% during the fourth quarter of the year. But this can also make it hard to volunteer over the holidays, as many shelters and food banks are packed with volunteers for a couple of months, but then searching for help during the rest of the year. So, although you want that “helpers high” during the season of giving, consider making volunteering one of your New Years’ resolutions.
There are many added benefits to you, personally, not just the non-profits you’ll be helping out. People who volunteer regularly also make more effort to take care of themselves, as demonstrated in visits to their doctor for preventive health care. Perhaps their networks are chiding them to do so. People who volunteer may be more physically active.
To try to tie this together, volunteering likely exerts its positive effects on health by connecting people to others, as well as to an activity that they find meaningful. Achieving connection, purpose, and meaning is critical to attenuating the stressors of life. When there is purpose and we are connected to others, we take care of ourselves.
Rather than face the over-crowded gyms in January, why not go to an unstaffed homeless shelter. It will be just as healthy for you and a lot more appreciated by your fellow humans.