WALLINGFORD — In the season of giving, one of the most rewarding ways to give back is to volunteer your time.
Not only does volunteering benefit your community, it’s been shown to have many positive health implications, both mentally and physically.
Since volunteering has been linked to stress reduction, it’s thought to help reduce blood pressure levels, possibly reducing the risk of heart-related illnesses. This was brought to light in a study done by Carnegie Mellon University and published in Psychology and Aging in 2013.
Volunteerism has also been linked to longevity and a more satisfying social life. In many respects, volunteering enables us to fulfill the psychological need to connect with others and contribute to something outside of ourselves.
This is especially pronounced in Western societies which, by definition, tend to be more individualistic in nature. An individualistic mentality precludes viewing community as an extension of oneself and can make it more difficult to remember the extensive benefits of lending a helping hand to others.
Culturally, volunteering is universal and comes in many different forms. In institutions such as colleges, philanthropic work is highly encouraged and it’s how I personally developed my own passion for volunteering. When I attended Southern Connecticut State University, I belonged to a few honorary service societies that had volunteer requirements for each semester.
This enabled me to experience a different side of my community that I would have never thought to seek out otherwise. It gave me a great appreciation for many seemingly insignificant amenities at my disposal that I had previously taken for granted.
From volunteering at the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen and the Connecticut Food Bank, I saw the immense need in my community. The issue of food insecurity is now close to my heart both personally and professionally in the field of public health.
A 2016 survey released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor revealed that around 25 percent of Americans participate in volunteer work each year.
Every holiday season, many people donate to local food pantries or volunteer their time at soup kitchens and shelters but it’s important to remember that the need for help remains consistent throughout the year, not just in the holiday months.
I first volunteered at the Connecticut Food Bank through an honor society on SCSU’s campus, but I eventually branched out and started coming on my own.
Every time I volunteer at the food bank, I learn something new. The staff at the food bank is extremely helpful and patient, always making my experiences there a delight.
I’ve enjoyed sorting food, preparing boxes of daily meal essentials, and sifting through the many fresh fruits and vegetables they carefully curate for those in need. For more information on volunteering with the Connecticut Food Bank, including finding local pantries or registering for times and tasks, visit http://www.ctfoodbank.org.
Kristen Dearborn is a Wallingford resident, NASM certified personal trainer and author of the blog dearfitkris – https://dearfitkris.com/