How Being Kind Helps You, Too
During the COVID pandemic, are you (somehow) managing to get in your 10,000 steps a day, eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet and get enough sleep, but you still need to lower your blood pressure or reduce stress? This year's Be Kind to Humankind Week (Aug. 25-31) is the perfect time to explore something that may be missing from your health regimen:
Studies have shown that putting the well-being of others before our own without expecting anything in return stimulates the reward centers of the brain. Those feel-good chemicals flood our system, producing a "helper's high." Volunteering, for example, has been shown to minimize stress and improve depression. One reason for this, experts say, is because kindness contributes to our sense of community and belonging. And that, studies have found, is a key contributor to a healthy, longer life.
The challenge many of us are facing today is how to show kindness from a physical distance. Quarantining during the pandemic means that traditional ways of volunteering in person are on hold. The good news is that the type of support that can be helpful to both giver and receiver can be given in a variety of small and big ways while protecting yourself and others from infection. It can include giving money or time to a cause. Or it can be as simple as a phone call, running an errand, giving advice or just lending a listening ear. To serve communities hit the hardest by the pandemic, you can:
- Write letters to boost the spirits of seniors in hospitals and nursing homes who are especially feeling the emotional toll of isolation. Reach out to your local nursing homes, hospice programs, or hospitals to see how you can help.
- Provide support through a virtual hotline, many of which are overwhelmed with callers who are dealing with the emotional toll of the pandemic. The Suicide Prevention Hotline and the Crisis Text Line are two organizations to consider.
- Help deliver meals to vulnerable populations, especially the elderly and immunocompromised, for whom a trip to the grocery store can be life-threatening. Requests for meals from Meals on Wheels has skyrocketed and you can learn how to help here.
- Run errands for immunocompromised neighbors, who, in addition to food, may also need toiletries, a prescription picked up, or a package delivered to the post office.
Finally, volunteering doesn't have to take over your life to be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits—to both you and your chosen cause. The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should feel a fun and rewarding, not another chore on your to-do list.