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Posted: July 11, 2016

The science shows what my soul already knows

According to studies, when we volunteer to help others, there's something in it for us: our wellbeing. In fact, the more time we devote to helping others (at least one or two hours a week) the better for our health.

Volunteers enjoy a greater sense of purpose in life. I'm not surprised. Whenever I focus on someone else's troubles, I connect. I feel good about myself right down to my soul. It's one reason why I went into medicine.

By the way, older volunteers are the most likely to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of helping others. And that's good news for seniors because plenty of older folks can feel disconnected or not needed. Helping others can fill that void.

How it works both ways

In Sauk City, we had a group of people volunteering for Meals on Wheels. Their dedication week after week was incredible. This man Jim delivered meals to Mr. Sullivan, and he'd unknowingly perform a mini check-up.

Jim would call and tell me, "Hey, I saw Mr. Sullivan this morning and he doesn't look as good as usual."

Jim's little act of concern was huge not only because was he helping Mr. Sullivan stay healthy by looking out for him - Mr. Sullivan was keeping Jim healthy, too.

This is the magic of volunteering… it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Employers: organize group volunteering 2x a year

Employers: be a thought leader. Set aside time for employee volunteer activity. Encourage your employees to choose where they'd like to volunteer. Tell peers it's not just smart public relations; it's a good workout for the very soul of your 9-to-5 family.

Employees: If your family at work doesn't see the value in volunteering, don't give up. Find ongoing volunteering to do with your family at home.

Call it enlightened selfishness or self-care, but give volunteering a try. Someone out there needs you. And your health needs them.

My next blog looks at… TBD. Till then, take care.


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