Help me, help you: How volunteering gives everyone a chance to do good

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Giving of one’s time, with no expectation of reward, is the essence of a good deed. There is no need to have to build a hospital or start a school in order to help others. An act of kindness is simply that, an act that is meant to benefit someone other than oneself.

For an individual in recovery for an addiction, volunteer service can help solidify sobriety by putting time and energy into helping others and taking the focus off of oneself. This is particularly important to a recovering addict who was, more than likely, quite self absorbed while in the disease. By getting outside of oneself and thinking of others, a person in recovery will feel like they are giving back in gratitude for their own second chance at a healthy life.

One reason for this boost in well-being is attributed to the fact that having a sense of purpose and meaning in one’s life is a core component of good health. Helping others in need, whether it is being a sponsor for someone new in recovery or collecting canned foods for the local pantry, enriches a person’s sense of purpose in life.

The benefits to doing charitable acts are many, including:

  • Feeling like one has purpose in life
  • Serving the community
  • Making a positive difference in someone’s life
  • Meeting new people and making new friends
  • Broadening one’s skill base with skills acquired as a volunteer
  • Getting out from familiar setting and expanding one’s horizons
  • Enhancing self-esteem

The positive effects of helping others were first quantified by Allan Luks after he surveyed thousands of volunteers across the country. He reported that people who reached out to help other people consistently stated that their health improved when they started to volunteer. About 50 percent reported feeling a sort of “helper’s high;” 43 percent felt physically stronger and more energetic; 28 percent experienced an inner warmth; 22 percent felt more calm and less depressed; 21 percent experienced an improved sense of self worth; and 13 percent experienced fewer aches and pains.

Ideas for places to volunteer one’s services are limitless and include:

  • 12 step meetings: Offering to set up, make coffee, be a sponsor
  • Food pantries and homeless shelters
  • Animal shelters
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Literacy programs at libraries or schools
  • Hospitals and nursing homes
  • Community service programs

Altruism, or the desire to perform good deeds, has only positive effects on a person. With a sense of gratitude driving this desire, volunteering can yield benefits to both the receiver and the doer.

White River Academy places an emphasis on character development in adolescent males with behavioral issues. Offering life skills classes and community service-oriented programs to instill qualities that lead to a productive and successful life post-recovery. For questions about White River Academy, please call 866-520-0905.

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