Happiness is a voluntary thingWe cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” – Ben Sweetland

We all follow different paths to our own happiness. Scientifically speaking – and I am all about the science. Hello. Girlfriendology – when we do good things for others it positively affects the part of out brain that releases those wonderful endorphins that create the mini-euphoria connected with happiness. Studies have even shown that giving our money away makes us feel as good as spending it on ourselves.

There are a lot of ways we can give away what we’ve got that will make us happy. The simplest, easiest, and least expensive, is to give away our time and talents. I’m talking about volunteering, and it’s absolutely FREE!

Beyond being free, when you decide to volunteer, you have complete control over what and how often you give. It can be a one time shot, like volunteering to pass out water for a local charity race, or something you do a on a more regular basis, like tutoring students at a local school. Whatever you do, you’ll be a positive influence on other people’s happiness, you’ll probably meet some cool people, make some new friends, and oh yeah, it makes you happy.

Here are a few things to think about to get you started. How much time do you have to give? How often? What can you do – what are your talents? What would you like to learn? Here’s a big one: what do you like to do?

While stepping out of your comfort zone a bit is always a good idea, volunteering becomes more regular when you find something that fits your talents and personality.

Here are just a few of the usual volunteer opportunities that people tend toward:

Humane Society or other animal rescue organization– these are often completely staffed by volunteers

• Church – never a shortage of volunteer opportunities to serve the church, community or world

• Schools – if you can do the math, or read a book, or explain the relationship of protons to electrons, you could be a great tutor

• Community Centers – communities thrive on volunteerism to serve local people – from children to the elderly – in a variety of ways

• Athletic Events – There’s hardly a weekend that goes by where there isn’t some fund-raising athletic event going on. Always a great, fun way to volunteer your time.

Habitat for Humanity – if you can swing a hammer, handle a paint brush, or do siding, Habitat is a great way to meet people, learn some building skills and really see the fruits of your labor. (I have this to thank for my sheetrock and even electrical skills!)

In choosing a volunteer activity, try to make it easy on yourself. You don’t need to volunteer with the idea that you’re going to solve world hunger. But you’ll find there is always a group or organization in need of another pair of hands and a willing heart.

Finally, I’m going to give a personal plug for volunteering to give blood. It’s a pretty simple process that only takes about an hour once every few months, is nearly painless (little more than a pin prick) and leaves you with an amazing feeling for having given something so personal that someone else might live. I recently received my five-gallon pin, and that made me happy!

We’ve all got something to give, to share, and to make ourselves and others happier in the process. Remember that you can get as much good feeling out of volunteering as the people you are giving your time and talent to. So light someone else’s path and you’ll find that path is a straight line to your happiness.

Be HAPPY Girlfriend!

For more on Volunteering:

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