For World Kindness Day, inspirational Zen Master Julian Daizan Skinner explains how volunteering can improve your own well-being as well as others’.
World Kindness Day
The benefits of volunteering are huge. Firstly, it helps others. Whether you help out at a food bank, distribute blankets to the homeless, spend a day a week working in a charity shop or bake cakes to raise money for the local library, you are making a real difference to the world around you. As winter draws in, those in need often require more help than normal so this is a brilliant time to get out there and offer a hand or even a kind word.
But the benefits of volunteering also go beyond this and can improve your own well-being. Just in time for World Kindness Day, leading mediation teacher, founder of Zenways charity arm – which helps the homeless and prisoners, and author of a new book Rough Waking Julian Daizan Skinner tells us how…
The Benefits of Volunteering
- When you volunteer you release endorphins in your body – the feel-good hormones that will lift our mood. If you sometimes feel a bit blue in the dark, cold, wet days of winter this is a brilliant way to lift your spirits – and those of the people you are helping!
- Volunteering is what we are built for. We are actually evolved to cooperate with each other and work together.The number of social interactions in your day is a reliable indicator of longevity – it’s so important to get out there and keep meeting people.
- Volunteering and helping others is empowering and nourishing. It reminds us of all the amazing things we are capable of, whether it’s making other people laugh, teaching people new things or helping an organisation out with their finances. Helping others makes us more able to receive help too.
- Helping others by volunteering keeps your skills fresh and relevant, teaches you new skills and makes you feel part of things and connected. You might refresh those Excel skills, learn how to make new dishes or discover how to encourage wildlife back to a park – but whatever it is, doing something as a group will help you feel part of things.
- Volunteering gets you out of the house, keeps you active, stops you ruminating and focussing on yourself – a proven source of ill-health and depression.
- It often gives people a real confidence boost when they start volunteering and can increase self-esteem. Good self-esteem correlates with good health so this is a really important and valuable thing to focus on.
- Volunteering puts you in front of people you wouldn’t normally meet. You’ll be confronted with different world views and experiences which stretch and challenge you, keep you thinking and force you to expand your own world view. All of this keeps you young, interested and helps you build new interests and form new opinions. We often spend most of our time with people we have things in common with but it’s amazing how much you learn when you spend time with people who are less similar to you.
- If you’re retired, it can be easy to miss the routine of going to work Monday to Friday, nine to five, however much you’re enjoying not being in the office! Volunteering can help impose a rhythm on your life again – you will almost certainly be expected to contribute weekly or monthly. We all like change, many of us like surprises but a regularity in your life tends to foster thriving.
When you volunteer, it is a form of generosity. Generosity makes you feel wealthy on the inside and also often puts your money worries in a very different and usually far more healthy perspective.
Rough Waking by Julian Daizan Skinner and Laszlo Mihaly is out now. All profits from the book are donated to Zenways’ charity work with St Giles Trust – offering Zen meditation and yoga to the homeless and imprisoned.