Every time you turn on the TV, read the newspaper, or go online, you are confronted with everything that’s wrong in the world. From unemployment to war to illness and poverty, the problems are seemingly endless and can leave you feeling depressed and powerless. As a college student, I was tired of studying these problems but not doing anything to solve them. I knew that students had ideas to improve communities and address world problems but they didn’t have the basic funding they needed to enact them. In many cases they only needed a couple hundred dollars, and due to student loans they couldn’t afford to donate their own money.
Because of this, I recruited volunteers and started Students Serve, a national nonprofit organization that gives students money to make a difference. Since this time, I have been inspired by the abilities of individuals to make a meaningful difference in our communities.
In addition, in a time of great confusion and inner tumult when I was trying to form my own identify and decide what I wanted to do with my life, Students Serve made me feel like I could contribute something important and valuable to society. Since that time, serving and giving to others has continued to enrich my mental well-being. Despite working long hours as a Business Analyst, I have found that Students Serve and my volunteer work enable me to release stress, have fun, and do something important with my time.
What you don’t see on the news is that normal, everyday people with jobs, families, hobbies, and other commitments are able to solve the problems that are world is facing. I also wrote Change the World, Change Your Life, a book that shows how taking action through service can elevate your mental well-being and provide a self-empowering, stress-reducing solution to the difficult times our world is facing.
Here are some ways that doing good can be good for the mind:
1. Service can help you overcome feelings of despair and helplessness. Instead of passively watching bad news, you can make a decision to use your talents and skills to help find a solution.
2. As you see your service create effective results in the lives of others, even if the results are small, you become empowered by the realization that your life can make a meaningful difference.
3. Through volunteering, you can interact with individuals in the community who care about you and an issue that is important to you. The socialization and camaraderie of volunteers can be uplifting and can be the starting point for enriching personal relationships.
4. In addition to fostering self-empowerment, volunteering helps you become confident in your abilities to do something important. This self-confidence can be transferred to other areas of your life as well.
5. Service allows you to connect your inner values and spiritual beliefs with the outside world. In the truest sense, you are living out your values when you volunteer. Your beliefs are transformed from mere statements about global injustice and what is wrong in this world into productive actions that you can see, feel, and experience. It is the most sincere and effective form of expressing what is in your soul.
Through service, you can define who you are and declare what is important using your actions.You will be amazed at what you do and who you become.
Angela Perkey, is the author of the brand-new book, Change the World, Change Your Life: Discover Your Life Purpose Through Service (Conari Press, March 2010)