Volunteering: Why Making a Difference Feels Good!
When we think of volunteering, we usually think about making a difference in the lives of others. But most people don’t realize how much they can help themselves by giving back. From lowering stress to boosting self-confidence, volunteering offers many health benefits.
Crystal Roberts, Director of Residential Services for Psynergy Programs, is a big proponent of volunteerism for Psynergy’s clients. In her previous role at an assisted living organization with 35 locations in nine states, she saw the positive effects time and again.
“Here at Psynergy, we need to offer ways for people to give back, and show that our residents can contribute like everyone else,” she relates. “Volunteering normalizes life for them, gives them a sense of purpose and allows them to own the powerful experience of helping others.”
Since joining Psynergy, Roberts has been identifying outside volunteer activities for residents at each campus, which range from volunteering at the Sacramento Food Bank to participating in benefit events like Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention Walk, both events that residents have taken part in this September.
“When they volunteer, our clients can be seen as people not defined by their diagnosis,” says Roberts. “We want to teach the world that we have people here who are capable and able-bodied. Their diagnosis is a piece of who they are, but they are not defined by it. This concept is a major focus for our Program team. Our clients are someone’s mother, father, great-aunt, uncle, parent – they belong to other people, and although they have different situations they deal with, they are so much more than their mental illness.”
Roberts is working on creating the same sort of mind/body connection that she developed in her previous position working with assisted living residents, which is more than a diagnosis or getting care and medication. The act of volunteering is about engaging the whole human in the process.
According to AARP, some of the benefits of volunteer work include decreasing depression, enjoying a sense of purpose and fulfillment, and maintaining physical and mental activity. A study released by Johns Hopkins University in 2009 revealed that volunteers actually increased their brain functioning. Volunteers also reduce their stress levels, and experience the “Happiness Effect” which comes from a release of dopamine in the brain.
The range of volunteer opportunities available is different in each community, but the health benefits of volunteering seem to be consistent wherever you go. Psynergy’s clients are currently making a difference in Morgan Hill, Greenfield, Sacramento and Rancho Cordova. If you know of an opportunity where we can be of service, please email Crystal Roberts with your idea at [email protected].