Volunteering is a wonderful win-win opportunity.
The people or organizations you decide to help may seem like the most obvious winners. After all, you're offering them your time, your skills, your hands and your mind.
But it's hard to overestimate the good things you can get in return—like meeting new friends or learning a new computer program and then there are those special and satisfying little perks—like the happily wagging tail of a shelter dog who knows you're there to go for a walk together.
If you've never volunteered and you're not sure how to start, ask yourself this question: What do I truly enjoy? Your answer might help point you in the right direction. For example, here are just a few ideas:
I enjoy animals. Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Or foster puppies or kittens that are waiting for adoption.
I enjoy culture. Look for opportunities with local art museums or theater groups.
I enjoy my community. Be a local expert. Some towns and cities have volunteers who help guide tourists.
I enjoy the outdoors. Volunteer at a state or national park. Or sign up for a nearby trail or beach cleanup.
I enjoy my neighbors. Start a neighborhood watch group. Make a map with people's names and numbers. Use it to check on each other during severe weather and power blackouts.
I enjoy exercise. Sign up for 5K charity races—participate, form a team, raise funds or offer to help during the event.
I enjoy my time at home. How about being a virtual volunteer? Area organizations may need clerical or other computer work you could do in your free time.
When your efforts benefit others, they also benefit you. Volunteering can help:
• Boost happiness.
• Promote longevity.
• Provide a sense of purpose.
• Ease stress, anxiety and chronic pain.
• Protect against depression and heart disease.
Check out VolunteerMatch.org. It's an online database that helps pair volunteers to projects in their area.