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The How of Happiness

Looking for a reason to volunteer? Start by looking in the mirror. While it would seem obvious that volunteering offers benefits to the community, it's also good for us on a personal level.

Article
Rob Harmon
Photos
Courtesy
Posted
February 28, 2018

With the natural disasters and man-made tragedies we’ve seen all over the country in the last year, we’re reminded time and time again that people can come together to take care of their own, no matter the cost or sacrifice. Tulsans are compassionate and willing to serve their fellow man, and we don’t just wait until some major catastrophe occurs before showing our kindheartedness.

Wherever it is that we serve, volunteering helps others. It’s that simple. Tulsa and its surrounding communities rely heavily on the kind, considerate hearts of the people who live right here in Green Country. Those who have been on the receiving end of this benevolence know that volunteerism is alive and well in Tulsa. But what is forgotten sometimes is this: volunteering is darn good for you, too.

Here’s a little bit we’ve found about why volunteering is the bee’s knees.

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It reduces stress
When you help others, dopamine is released in the brain, providing a natural kind of high. This tends to lower levels of depression and reduces stress. The “Happiness Effect” recent studies have highlighted that the more you give to others, the happier you become, and therefore less stressed about any of your own burdens you may be carrying.

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It boosts self-esteem
By helping others, a greater sense of trust and self-esteem is built. Knowing that others are relying on your help makes you feel more tied into society and feel more useful and needed, which organically leads to greater self-esteem. Knowing that others will do the same for you when you are in need promotes trust and generates self-worth and a greater appreciation of others.

In other words, the more you volunteer, the more you like people, including yourself.

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It expands your network of relationships
Connecting to others through volunteering adds to your circle of friends and acquaintances. If you do it often, these can become valuable relationships in the future — perhaps, even, some of your greatest life-long friends. Volunteering also helps us to keep friendships. By serving together, the camaraderie that can be created is priceless. The larger our social network, the healthier we are physically, mentally and emotionally.

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It just feels good
Any time you volunteer, it just makes you feel happy, knowing you made a difference in someone’s life. When you freely give your time to others, a personal sense of accomplishment develops, which always has positive effects on our mood. There’s a threshold to reaping the full benefits of volunteering, though. Studies show that people who commit one to two hours of volunteering every week reap the fullest benefits from their service.

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It leads to longer life
Volunteering does more than just make you happy — it also has lasting benefits to the body. Studies have proven that volunteers experience greater longevity and less frequency of heart disease. The social interaction that is integrally part of volunteering significantly reduces the progress of memory loss, and may be an important way of avoiding Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

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It provides purpose
The older we get, the more we are at risk of becoming isolated and less connected to a purpose beyond ourselves. It’s easy to get set in our ways. We go to work, come home, enjoy the weekend around the house, go back to work and repeat. Volunteering constantly replenishes that sense of purpose in your life.

If you’re not sure where to begin to make a difference in someone else’s life, here are three ways to volunteer in the Tulsa area:

  • Volunteer at a shelter: Tulsa's reputation for helping the homeless precedes itself. The Salvation Army Emergency Shelter downtown on Denver Avenue is part of the reason why. Food, shelter and recovery programs for people fighting poverty, homelessness, joblessness and substance abuse is what they do best. Volunteering with them any time of the year to help prepare meals provides a truly great feeling of giving back to the community.
  • Help the elderly: Throughout the year, Life Senior Services of Tulsa has a ton of volunteer opportunities that, in and of themselves, are true rewards. Serving one-on-one or as small group assistants during activities like crafts, games, reading and special events can make a huge difference as this nonprofit changes the lives of those who have been traversing this life longer than the rest of us.
  • Donate blood: At this moment, someone like yourself is needing a pint or two, and your volunteerism is a matter of life or death. Maybe you gave during the holidays. That’s cool, but you can give again. We can volunteer blood every 56 days (eight weeks). Did you know that only about 5 percent of eligible donors ever share their blood in their entire lifetime? Encourage someone you know who’s never given, and you’ll be providing twice as much.

Of course, there are hundreds of ways to volunteer in Green Country, and the benefits of doing so are limitless.

March 2019 Cover