5 Quick Ways to Volunteer and Feel Happier

Studies have shown that people who volunteer and provide their work for free are happier.

Are You Too Busy To Volunteer?

If I told you you could enjoy the benefits of volunteering with a time commitment of only 30 minutes or an hour a week, would you give it a go?

I’m busy too. The usual stuff – a trio of kids and a business to run. But I want to give something back and feel I have a bit to to offer too. Here’s how I squeeze voluntary work into my life.

I help out with reading twice a week in my 8 year old son’s class. And once a week I help out with spelling in my 11 year old son’s class.

My total time commitment is only 1 hour and 40 minutes a week but, by dividing it up into three small chunks on separate days, I can fit it in. The classroom help is also at my kid’s school where I will be dropping my sons off anyway, so I don’t waste any time traveling.

The teachers really appreciate my help – I even have a certificate on my fridge to prove it, and I enjoy getting to know my sons’ teachers and classmates better.

Proof That Volunteering Will Make You Happier

Professor Paul Whiteley, from the University of Essex in Colchester, whose team produced the findings, says research has revealed an interesting link between helping others and enjoying a good quality of life:

“It seems that when we focus on the needs of others, we may also reap benefits ourselves. Voluntary activity in the community is associated with better health, lower crime, improved educational performance and greater life satisfaction.”

5 Quick and Easy Ways To Fit Volunteering Into Your Life

Here’s how you can fit volunteering into your life without giving up too much of your time.

You don’t have to do them all. Just pick one that works for you and do it for 30 minutes, or longer if you can.

1. Working with animals – My friend Teresa lives in the UK at the moment. She enjoys going to the RSPCA to help walk the homeless dogs. Prior to that she lived in Costa Rica where she regularly spent her nights patrolling the beaches to protect nesting sea turtles from predators.

2. Volunteering at a nearby school – Kids need help with reading, spelling, maths, computers and sports. Just about everything really. If you don’t want to work with children directly then you can still contribute by helping in the school office, the library or the tuck shop.

3. Helping the aged – Old people get lonely. Maybe you can ‘adopt’ a granny or grandpa in your area. Pop in for a cup of tea once a week, offer to help clean the high shelves they can’t reach or pick up their groceries for them.

4. Fundraising – Could you stand outside the supermarket shaking a tin to raise money and awareness for your favorite charity? You can’t get much easier than this for a one off voluntary job. You’ll probably enjoy the social aspect and be amazed at people’s generosity too.

5. Pick up litter – Grab a couple of plastic bags and head to your nearest beauty spot. Whether it’s a beach, a park or a forest you’ll probably be able to fill your bags quickly, and you’ll leave with a feeling of satisfaction.

Let me know any other ideas you have for quick ways to volunteer that make you feel happier. Just writing about it has made me feel happier!

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  1. Gordie Rogers October 12, 2009 at 4:46 pm - Reply

    Another way is to volunteer to teach English to immigrants. I’ve made some great friends doing this when I was back in New Zealand.

  2. Positively Present October 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm - Reply

    Great post! Volunteering is the best!! :)

  3. QwkDrw October 13, 2009 at 5:57 am - Reply

    The positive influence of volunteerism indeed benefits the receiver and the giver. Our church has many motivated volunteers. Sometimes it seems our entire small coastal community is run by citizen volunteers retired (or soon to be) from professions or with other special knowledge and unique abilities. A former American president may have described the effect of volunteerism on our society as ‘A Thousand Points of Light’.

    And in our family, a number of those school issued ‘Certificates of Appreciation’ also have proudly been pinned to our kitchen walls over the years. Stay in touch with your kids school system, the benefits to the school and your kids are great


    • Annabel Candy October 13, 2009 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      QwkDrw – There are so many ways to give, I just want to let people know a few ideas to get started. It’s really a 2 way process with equal gains for both parties.

      Gordie – Thanks for the wonderful idea to welcome new immigrants into our communties and help smooth their path. So many people have helped me learn their language in Laos, France and all over Central America. It’s an honor to be able to repay the favour and you can learn so much about other cultures and how language makes up our personalities and culture.

  4. teresa October 13, 2009 at 10:49 pm - Reply

    Wow that Teresa sounds like a treasure…I bet she is rather gorgeous as well hahahaha It’s funny because sometimes you do have the ‘Oh God, I just haven’t got the energy for this today’ but the weird thing is when you get going you then find the energy to do that plus a lot more! I highly recommend it!

    • Annabel Candy October 14, 2009 at 8:42 am - Reply

      Teresa – I know exactly what you mean. It’s time and energy you think you don’t have but because I’ve committed myself to it I have to go and do the work. Then when I’ve done it I’m glad I did! Yes, she is good looking too, how did you know?

      Connie – Right back at ya:)

  5. Connie October 14, 2009 at 12:57 am - Reply

    I’m getting inspired as usual. You’re amazing Annabel!

  6. Robin Dickinson October 16, 2009 at 5:26 pm - Reply

    Thanks, Annabel. This is an important topic.

    Just thinking outside the dots, volunteering is also a chance to be brave, creative and adventurous.

    For example…

    Years ago I used to visit a young prison inmate in a maximum security jail (for social visits). This was part of a voluntary program run by the jail.

    He was from overseas (had committed a relatively minor crime whilst on holidays in Australia), but was locked up for three years with men who had committed far more serious crimes. It was a terrifying environment. He had no local family and so never got any visitors.

    The inmate really appreciated the visits, and I felt good doing it. But it was also like a wild adventure – dangerous, confronting and at times shocking.

    It was an incredible experience and an important reference point in my personal development.

    One hour every six weeks for formative, life changing value!

    • Annabel Candy October 16, 2009 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      What a great thing to do. I have thought about doing it in the past. Definitely enjoyed books like the Bangkok Hilton where a woman gets jailed in Thailand for drug smuggling though so I worry that I have voyeuristic reasons.

      For my own part I spent a year with Voluntary Services Overseas teaching in rural Zimbabwe. Rural doesn’t really describe it properly. I was 7km from a tarred road and the only muzungu (white person) within a 30km radius, and a woman at that. We had electricity and a tap outside but just a hole in the ground toilet. One of my greatest life skills is being able to wash my entire body and hair with one bucket of water thanks to that year:)

      I was brave and adventurous to do it but also incredibly naive. I’d love to do it again and feel I have a lot more to offer now and a lot more experience to handle it. Maybe when I’m retired.

      In the meantime I am just doing little things and hoping it’s better than nothing. I always used to give blood but the Kiwis and Aussies don’t want my Pommie blood, even though I was a vegetarian during the years when they worry that I may have been infected with mad cow disease!

      If any of you can give blood please do. It’s a simple process that should only take one hour. Blood donations have saved my life and the lives of countless other people. If you can do it you should.

  7. Rita Vail December 4, 2009 at 3:36 pm - Reply

    Annabel – The podcast was an absolute scream! I like your dry sense of humor that comes through in the blog, but it was fun seeing and hearing it – almost in person. The balloons were a nice touch. It took me back to college freshmen speech class, I think. Maybe it is also fun to see someone doing something that pushes their boundaries a bit. And it was nice to see and hear you, because I am getting to know you better that way. From the very first post I read, I felt like you would be someone I wanted for a friend.

    But to answer your question – in general – I don’t usually watch people’s podcasts. I like to read and often skip the video unless it is very short. I am 61 and a quiet person. I can read faster than I can listen. So, bravo. You did it! But if you want to just go back to writing, that is fine. Either way. I like reading your writing, but I will probably also watch you if you like, unless I am short of time.

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