One of the little-known benefits of helping others is just how much you help yourself.
Studies indicate people who volunteer experience not only better psychological health but also improved physical well being.
“What the research is showing, is that directly volunteering and getting out and working with others alleviates things like depression and has also been shown to decrease chronic pain and heart disease, especially for older people,” said Sandra Dean, member services coordinator for the Penticton-based South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre. “It’s even been found, with teens it actually improves their self esteem and helps them be happier as young people.”
That organization will be just one of the 50-plus participants in this Saturday’s Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Fair at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre.
Representatives of the centre will be on hand with material and information about the advantages of providing assistance in the community.
“It works emotionally by helping people feel more connected and less isolated,” said Dean.
“That’s how people get started in volunteering typically is that they want to help others but what we’re finding, and why the centre is encouraging people to volunteer, is that it helps the individual and creates a more collaborative community overall.
“And absolutely it transfers to your physical health and it also connects us with something a little beyond ourselves, we call it a higher purpose.”
Kris Rusk is one of the many people who give of their time to help out at the Soupateria, preparing meals for the less fortunate who stop by for lunch at the facility which is open 365 days of the year.
“I really enjoy doing it, and I feel good about doing it and that is the main thing,” said Rusk.
“I’ve been volunteering for almost 10 years now, ever since my husband passed away.
“It definitely does make me feel good physically as well.
“I could vegetate at home but this gets me out and about, doing things and at the end of the day I feel good.”
She added that sense of doing good transfers to all aspects of life and also helps build more support systems for everyone involved, those who give and those who receive.
The willingness of Canadians to volunteer Dean feels is one of the reasons this country is among the top six in the world in terms of having a happy population.
Studies show that to derive the ultimate benefits from donating your time there are some basic guidelines individuals should follow.
The first is to volunteer for the right reasons, typically to help others, doing it on a regular basis, at least a couple of hours a week rather than a one-time thing or only once a month and by assisting several different agencies and organizations.
“What creates that whole measurement around happiness is feeling that you’ve got somebody you can rely on and that your out there in the community doing good,” said Dean.
The Healthy Living Fair runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The free event will feature a variety of presenters, activities and demonstrations.
Keynote speaker this year is Joy McCarthy who will impart her wisdom on the topic of, Celebrate Health.