The Many Benefits of Volunteering

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By Anita Manley

For me, volunteering is a family value. My Mom volunteered several hours a week at our church and at a home for the disabled, while I was in high school. She was committed to volunteering and helping out others. It made her feel useful and gave her a sense of purpose, while helping others at the same time.

Many organizations, such as The Royal, simply could not run without the assistance of volunteers. During the 2019/20 fiscal year, 409 volunteers put in 31,884 hours to help the mental health centre run smoothly. I think everyone realizes that volunteering is important to help out worthy causes and people/animals in need. But, what about the benefits for the person doing the volunteering?

Firstly, it helps build social connections. Getting out and meeting people with common interests helps so much with feelings of isolation or loneliness (especially during a pandemic). Since starting my volunteer work at The Royal, 9 years ago, I have made so many friends. These friends are fellow volunteers, staff and peers and I lovingly refer to them as “my Royal Family”.

Second, volunteering helps to improve health…both mentally and physically. It has certainly helped me counteract the effects of stress, depression and anxiety. Volunteering gets my mind off of my own issues as I am there to help others, who have more serious problems than mine. The fact that I’m in regular contact with others in my support system really helps to combat depression and feelings of isolation. Also, research shows that “people who give their time to others might benefit from lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan”.*

Another huge benefit I’ve found with volunteering, is how it has boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem. By helping others, I’m helping myself, through learning new skills, taking on new challenges and working towards goals and deadlines. By accomplishing all of these things, I feel a sense of pride, and have a feel-good attitude, of “I do have value– I can do this, and I can do this well!”

Probably the biggest intitial difference for me with volunteering, right off the bat, was how it gave me a sense of purpose. A reason to get out of bed in the morning. I would look forward to getting on the bus, and showing up at my volunteer job to see all those amazing faces and to share a few laughs. I have a big sense of connection to mental health (as you all know) and being able to give back to The Royal in particular, when they helped to transform my life, makes me feel so good.

In addition, volunteering can help out with your career. From teenagers looking for their first job, or adults wanting to change direction or get promoted. Volunteer experience always looks great on the resume and can help you build skills and gather experience in areas that you’ve never worked in before.

This past Christmas, 2020, I volunteered serving dinner to the women of Cornerstone Housing for Women. It made me feel wonderful to be helping those less fortunate than myself. It got me out of my ho-hum mood (by forgetting my own problems) about spending Christmas without family (due to COVID). These women were so happy to see me (with my Santa hat on). I was also pleased to see them. A happy Christmas for all of us!

For all of these reasons, I would suggest finding a volunteer opportunity that interests you.

*happiness.com

Volunteering is probably my greatest wellness tool.

Doctor’s Orders!

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By Anita Manley

I’m sure many of you are spending several hours a day, or more, attached to your computer screen; attending Zoom meetings, responding to emails, etc. It is so important, now during this pandemic–more than ever–to keep active for your physical and mental wellbeing.

Despite the pandemic, I recently had an annual physical, for which I am very grateful. I have a wonderful family physician who takes a lot of time talking to me about my overall health. This year was no different. Every year, she gives me notes to take home with me–my homework! This is what she told me to focus on this year.

First, take vitamin D supplements daily all year round –1,000 UI (with food). Everyone in our climate is vitamin D deficient, unless they take supplements. Also, my doctor explained to me that there has been some very preliminary research done which seems to indicate that those deficient in vitamin D have worse outcomes if they get COVID than those who are not vitamin D deficient. Guess what I’m taking every morning with breakfast?

My doctor also wants me to enjoy my golden years. I’m 55–getting to the age where my children might soon have children of their own. My doctor said that so many people get out there and throw a ball to their grandkids and pull a muscle in their shoulder, or go cross country skiing and fall due to loss of balance. Therefore, next on the list of homework is:

  1. stretching
  2. balance
  3. weights

    1) I have found a great YouTube video “Real Time Full Body Stretching Routine – Ask Dr Jo” – which gives you just that – a full body stretch. I now follow this 2-3 times a week.

    2) Balance: My doctor said to practice standing on one foot for as long as possible and keep extending that period of time. Alternate feet. This will help with strengthening the muscles to gain balance. I do this after my stretching routine.

    3) Weights: Women in their 50’s start to lose upper body strength, if they don’t work at it. So, she recommended I do a series of arm strengthening exercises using just a light 2 pound weight to begin with. I do a series of weight lifting after my balancing exercises.

    And finally, EVERY year, my doctor advises me to get at least 10,000 steps in a day. She wants me walking as much as possible every single day to keep the weight off and to stay fit. I average about 8,000 steps a day, so I’m not far off, but need to increase my steps for sure. This will be difficult once winter comes along, so I’ve purchased some cross-country skis to keep active throughout this Ottawa winter.

    What will you be doing to stay active and healthy this winter?
I’ll be stretching, doing balancing exercises and weights so that I’m ready to hit the trails this winter. What will you be doing to stay healthy in between Zoom meetings?