Feeling mind cluttered and overwhelmed? Try volunteering! Why add another task to the seemingly endless list of things to do? It is a speedy quick way to clarify the important from the unnecessary chores. Giving back and sharing talents activates many lovely neurotransmitters in brain that improve executive brain function, promote positivity, better health and may help you live longer. How do I know? Regular Joes and scientists alike have been studying the power of kindness and volunteerism for quite some time now, but honestly, I prefer to test the theory myself and I encourage you to do the same. Just in case you were curious, I listed 3 of many articles below for your reading enjoyment.
This is how I test a multitude of claims thrown at me from the media, books, friends, family and the endless array of advertising shoved in my face at any given moment. This method is fantastic because we all have minutely different bio-chemistry, beliefs, orientations, and genetics. If it is intriguing to me, I will take the time to test the given theory. It is vitally important to be open minded so as not to sway your results by the power of your mind and persuasions of long held ideologies, but just to look and see what is there.
Last year, I felt like the walking dead. I had zero enthusiasm and zero drive while apathy pulled me down into a dark, stinky pit. I had to do something. I chose school because I love to learn and be in an environment of growth. While taking a speech class, I listened to my classmates give civic engagement speeches and felt the pull of “should”. I hate “shoulds”; they are evil, oozing, guilt smothering monsters. I want to crush them under my feet until nothing remains but a black stain on the sidewalk. I appreciated all that was presented, but I thought, when do I have time to make that kind of commitment? That’s when it hit me – simple acts of kindness can be practiced many times a day, every day without any major time commitment. I changed my speech subject to the Power of Kindness and got an A. Not only that, I volunteered myself to be a kindness ambassador wherever I went. I did things like look people in the eye and ask about their day, then actually listened with my whole body. I brought in grocery carts. I smiled at everyone. I picked up trash in the playground. Simple and effective. I felt great and my energy restored itself, projects I once thought were important fell off my to do list with ease and the relationship to my family and community began to strengthen. I went so far as to bring my kindness initiative to my daughter’s elementary school and became acquainted with the needs of the students and their families. I got to teach students about their brains and the power of kindness to enhance their lives, as well as, those around them. They learned about kindness to self, gratitude, empathy and compassion and how these skills promote use of the “wise brain” or prefrontal cortex to be happier, healthier and – my personal favorite – problem solve. With solutions gaining speed with each act of kindness, these kids learned they are able to get over obstacles and reach their goals. But wait, there is more…I learned to better see the obstacles that were blocking me from my writing goals and have been discovering ways to grab that dream by the tail and never let it go until I have it firmly in my grasp.
My test results are in and I have learned better where my boundaries exist and where they need fortification. Making time for myself and my dreams has become an even higher priority and I feel a tremendous amount of satisfaction in how I spend my days. Turns out, giving is the best way to receive. It really is a selfish act when you get right down to it, but it is a wise one. We are all connected; when one succeeds, we get a little lift and when one falls, we feel the downward pull. Try out your own experiment with volunteer and see what if has to give you.