Volunteer work is good for us

I’ve been doing volunteer work for several decades.

In the late 1980s while I was working as a public school teacher, I got started with volunteer work because I wanted to compare notes with people who had gone through some relatively rare experiences that I had gone through.

The process just went on from there. I learned that I was good at organizing things and making things happen, in a low key kind of way, and that’s been at the core of my volunteer work ever since.

In the process, I’ve learned many valuable things, accomplished many things of value alongside a great number of other people, and met many great people from around the world. I’ve learned things and done things that I never would have imagined doing, had it not been that one day I had said, “I need to talk with other people and compare notes about some things that I have experienced.”

Helping others boosts our own well-being

Until recently, I didn’t think much about the fact that volunteer work – especially when it involves plenty of face to face meetings and get togethers – is good for a person’s health.

Recently, however, I read a Nov. 29, 2014 Toronto Star article that underlines the health benefits of giving things away – one’s time, one’s energy, and some small proportion of one’s income by way of charitable donations.

As the article notes, it’s good to have moderation with such things, as with anything else.

Leadership succession

As a volunteer, I believe in a flat-hierarchy approach to decision making. And I’m a strong believer in leadership succession. That means I step back as soon as some project is doing well (in some cases that can take a few years or over a decade), so that people (often younger people) with greater skills, more energy, and a fresh outlook can add to whatever bit of work I’ve done to get some project underway.

Give and take

The Nov. 29, 2014 Toronto Star article mentions two books:

Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (2013) and

Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending (2013).

The article also quotes an author whose books include The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy But Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make you Happy, But Does (2013).

We are social creatures

I want to mention a few other books that deal with the fact that we’re social creatures, and that helping others is a part of being sociable:

The Village Effect: How Face-to-Face Contact Can Make Us Healthier, Happier, and Smarter (2014)

Me, Myself, and Us: the Science of Personality and the Art of Well-being (2014)

Social: Why our Brains Are Wired to Connect (2013)

There’s more to life than positive thinking and self-esteem

In the course of all of this, I would care less about boosting my self-esteem – or engaging in non-stop positive thinking. In that regard a useful reference is:

Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation (2014).

I’ve discussed the latter book at a previous post.


A Jan. 1, 2015 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Can self-reliance replace the benefits of community? Why it’s time to rebuild civic life.”

A Jan. 1, 2015 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Teens losing need for social networks, report finds.”

A Jan. 11, 2015 CBC Spark podcast is entitled: “Why our brains respond to positive affirmations.”


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