Service is a Smile.

To give is to receive…..as a student I was taught to avoid cliché’s like this in my writing. However, I’ve found that phrases like this stick with us because so often they are true! Giving does feel good, and this isn’t just my opinion. There has been a great deal of research in the last decade showing that people who volunteer and give of themselves have a greater chance of being happy and healthy than those who do not.

In a review of research on the health benefits of volunteering, published by the Corporation for National and Community Service, several of these studies are cited. Giving of ourselves is shown to increase our sense of purpose, self-esteem and life satisfaction while decreasing feelings of depression. Studies that looked at volunteering by those with chronic illnesses found that those who volunteered achieved greater health benefits than those who relied on medical treatment alone. Service goes beyond the obvious benefits to the community group being served. It benefits the giver.

As we continue our January themes of wellness and self-care, this seems like a win-win to me.

On Monday we will celebrate the spirit and generosity of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King believed we all had a duty to serve others and that through our collective actions, social problems could be solved. In 1994, Congress declared the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday as a day of service. Rather than taking the day off, we are encouraged to find ways, big or small, that we can give, benefitting our community and ourselves.

What are your plans for this day of service? Keep in mind that not all service requires a great deal of time or money. Kindness can fill a need as easily as dollars. There are many ways to volunteer or serve:

  • Donate your time
  • Make a monetary contribution
  • Make a purchase from a company that supports charitable causes
  • Consciously send positive, healing thoughts to someone

Perform random acts of kindness: smile at a stranger, hold the door for someone, or joyfully give directions

Volunteering can be fun as well. If you are looking for a great way to involve your friends and family in service, try MSAA’s Swim for MS. Take time on Monday to plan your Swim for MS event. Whether you are swimming laps or playing inner tube water polo you can raise awareness and funds while receiving the benefits of exercise and laughter – a true win-win. No longer will the cliché be “give until it hurts,” but rather, give until it feels good!

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