Did you know that America is a country built upon a foundation of volunteerism? From its very beginnings, colonists survived by forming support groups in order to make sure everyone had their basic needs met.
In fact, the very first fire station, developed in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin, was run by volunteers. Volunteers also played a crucial role in the Civil War, provided aid during the Great Depression, and collected supplies throughout World War II. With such a rich history in volunteerism, it’s no wonder this tradition has carried on into modern day.
While it’s commonly known that volunteers play an impactful role in the lives of others, the act of volunteering also has profound impact on the volunteer, making it a tradition that is mutually beneficial.
If you’ve ever volunteered, you may be familiar with the warm, fuzzy feeling that often follows. You likely walked away feeling connected to a community and felt like you made a difference.
Whether you volunteered because you care deeply about the work you were doing or were simply looking to help others, your actions likely made an impact both in the lives of others AND in your own life.
Not only does volunteering improve your physical and emotional health, it also increases your skills and builds valuable connections. While these benefits are universal and available to anyone who volunteers, they are especially impactful for volunteers who are also in addiction recovery.
Volunteering in Recovery
As we know, there is a life full of potential after addiction. Upon leaving in-house treatment, it is important that those in recovery stay active and maintain healthy routines. Because volunteering encourages community involvement and a positive attitude, it helps prevent social isolation and boredom, two factors that can trigger relapse.
In addition, volunteering improves mental health by combating depression, boosting self-confidence, and relieving anxiety. On a chemical level, volunteering triggers the “pleasure center” of the brain, releases dopamine, and helps regain power over the symptoms of addiction.
Volunteering not only aids in recovery, it also provides the self-confidence and interpersonal connections necessary to move forward. Through learning to be on time, completing tasks, and committing to a schedule, volunteering teaches the important life skills necessary to maintain a job while providing the opportunity for professional networking.
While the options for volunteering are endless, it is recommended that those in recovery reflect on their passions before committing to a cause or organization. In choosing an activity they personally connect with, it is more likely they will establish lasting connections and find a deeper sense of purpose.
Volunteer with Animals
Volunteering with animals is the perfect option for animal lovers and is especially beneficial for those in recovery for the same reasons animal-assisted therapy is often utilized in addiction treatment.
Dedicating time to a local shelter or rescue organization alleviates stress, increases oxytocin, and provides a space for nonjudgemental companionship. If working at a shelter isn’t right for you, consider volunteering as a dog walker or caring for animals at a local boarding facility.
Organizations such as LAk9s accept volunteers, providing a wonderful opportunity to learn from other animals enthusiasts in a professional setting.
Volunteer with Seniors
As the baby boomer generation continues to age, the need for volunteers in the senior community greatly increases. While there are a variety of opportunities in this field, the two major areas in which volunteers can be of assistance are food service and care.
Volunteering in a kitchen at a senior center is an excellent way to hone your skills as a chef while providing healthy meals. If you prefer to work directly with other people, socializing with senior residents may be the perfect route for you.
You can make a difference in the lives of others simply by being present, spending time, and offering quality human interaction.
Volunteer in Healthcare
If you are interested in the medical field but have no training, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer a helping hand at a local hospital.
Duties vary depending on department, but many hospital volunteers serve by greeting patients and working to make their stay as comfortable as possible.
Other simple, yet important, tasks may include holding babies in the NICU, refilling waters, delivering messages, or reading to patients.