We all know the expressions, “it’s better to give than to receive,” and “charity begins at home,” but putting them into practice can change your life. Just ask Chris Garland of Botswana. As you’ll read in his profile, the busy financial planner still finds time to support worthy organizations in the region, including SA Guide-Dogs and Equinox Trust.
While you may not be a philanthropist at Garland’s level, there are numerous ways to contribute to those who can benefit from some support. Giving of your time and energy will actually help you as much as the person or organization you’re donating your efforts to, according to research. Volunteering can boost the well-being of the volunteer, helping to alleviate depression. Studies suggest generosity generates happiness in the brain, so if you’re feeling low, reach out to see how you can help someone in need. You’ll both come out ahead.
British statesman Sir Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” And giving back is the ideal way to bring more balance to a hectic life.
Here are eight ways helping others can help you live your best life:
1. Put your problems in perspective. Have you heard the proverb, “I felt sorry for myself because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet”? Maybe you’re frustrated that your income barely allows you to meet the mortgage, let alone take a dream vacation—until you see a family living in their car.
2. Build relationships. Loneliness is epidemic, and adults find it much more difficult to form new friendships than children do. Helping your community is one great way to get connected to new people. Perhaps you can mentor a student, or serve as a surrogate grandparent. You may never have thought of yourself as a role model before, but when you have a youngster looking to you for guidance and support, you’ll be one! And this role will nourish everyone involved.
3. Expand your identity. Everyone may know you as an IT wizard, and appreciate your tech knowledge. But once you start volunteering at an animal shelter, you’ll have a whole new identity. The abandoned dogs and cats will not care how skilled you may be among other humans; they need your love and attention. And haven’t you been thinking about getting a pet for years? You just might find one of those pups becomes a beloved new friend—and ends up going home with you.
4. Enhance your skill set. Okay, you’re a social media manager, and know everything anyone could want to learn about Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (now known as “X”), TikTok. Now an acquaintance has asked if you’ll help create an art auction for a local charity. So you’re learning about fundraising on the fly, and working with vendors, the auctioneer, and other professionals outside your wheelhouse. It’s fun, educational—and could prove beneficial for your future.
5. Build your resume. Activities that expand your skill set also build your resume. While this shouldn’t be the reason you decide to volunteer, in the process of doing so you’ll make new contacts and add to your capabilities, all of which can help you land a new position later on. Maybe your volunteer activities will even catalyze a career change.
6. Live Longer. Doing good increases life expectancy. Researchers found that helping others reduces stress, thus lowering mortality. So if you want to live a long happy life, helping others is one of the simplest and most fulfilling ways to get there.
7. Inspire others. Humans are herd creatures. When you observe someone doing something positive, it can create a ripple effect in your community. When you turn on your generosity, whether it’s giving your scarf to a homeless person or donating time or
money on a much larger scale, it will activate other people’s desire to help.
8. Upgrade your attitude. If your life has been difficult lately, volunteering will transform you into a “glass half-full” person, boosting your self-esteem and giving you a sense of renewal. Surprising though it might seem, helping others may be the “cure” you need.