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Volunteering - the ultimate gift of giving

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“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr, author

They say that Christmas comes but once a year. And while that’s thankfully true in some ways – given the sheer amount of work, family and other planning many of us try to fit in before year end – it’s also always heart-warming to see the spirit of generosity and goodwill it seems to bestow in many of us.

To me, it’s also no coincidence that International Volunteer Day (5 December) falls in the season of giving. Because with festive cheer and a New Year full of promise just ahead, it’s a great time to reflect on what’s truly important to us, and the kind of difference we might want to make for ourselves or others. Meaningful and enjoyable, volunteering has also been proven to be good for our health and wellbeing too.

Here are four great reasons to consider volunteering – this year or beyond.

1. Volunteering is great for your physical health and wellbeing

Did you know that there are serious health benefits to spending your time helping others? Called a ‘helpers high’, studies have shown that volunteering can help release endorphins, offering a similar physical experience or ‘feel good’ effect as vigorous exercise or meditating. Other reported benefits include better sleep, lower risks of stress and depression, and one US university even found that people aged 50 plus who regularly volunteered were likely to have less problems with high blood pressure.

2. It’s great for your mental and emotional wellbeing too

As well as providing a (well deserved) sense of achievement and purpose, volunteering can help us to meet new people, feel more connected and build life-long friendships. Which is particularly wonderful if you’ve ever moved and need to establish new social networks or get a feel for your neighbourhood. Plus, it’s a great learning opportunity to share your skills and learn some new ones. If your company offers community and volunteering programs you can even build this into your team plan or activities.3.

3. It doesn’t need to be with strangers to count

At the time of the last census, 2.1 million Australians said they spent time providing unpaid care for a relative or someone else they know. So when we think of volunteering, it doesn’t need to be in the context of a formal program, through work or a community organisation to count. In a sense, it’s about doing or giving what you can to help others. What matters most is motive, not the outlet.

4. It makes a difference to the communities and world we live in

There’s a great quote by author Edward Everett Hale that goes, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.”  

In my role at Jemena, I’m privileged to get to hear many of the wonderful stories about how our people are doing something special for a cause they care about – from local baseball teams to food rescue and meal delivery services, children’s charities, disability care organisations and more. And with a 2016 report by Volunteers Australia stating that 93 percent of those surveyed saw positive changes a result of their volunteering, it’s not hard to see why.

So if you’re looking for a New Year’s resolution you’ll want to stick to, why not join those 3.6 million Australians aged 15 and over actively volunteering. And to all the incredible people across our business out there making a difference for their local communities, thank you.

 

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Images clockwise from top left: Cooking up a storm for Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea, lending a hand at the Salvation Army Lighthouse café, pounding the pavement for City2Surf, dirty hands at CERES Community Environment Park, shopping for Wesley Mission's ‘Connect’ food and care program, kicking goals with Boots for All