Feeling hopeless? Here’s a quick and easy way to feel better

Art of the Gala Oct 23 Austin
Photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash

We are not inherently selfish beings. In fact, our brains are hard-wired for generosity. Science has proven the philosophers and faith-leaders correct: Giving, volunteering and sharing make us happy, more so than acquiring wealth or shoving cake in your mouth.

Some call it the “paradox of generosity”, but anyone who’s volunteered or donated to a cause they care about can attest that there’s nothing contradictory about it at all. Being able to share what you have means you have enough, and that’s a great position to be in.

Giving can also help you feel a sense of control. Maybe you can’t solve all the world’s problems right now, but you can help solve smaller problems affecting people near you right now. Knowing that being generous can cheer you up and give you a sense of control, consider these easy pick-me-up activities that can help our community as you help yourself.

Volunteer with kids 
The most gratifying volunteer activities are those where you can interact with the people you’re helping. Volunteering with kids can be complicated because most organizations can’t have you interacting with kids without your going through a background check, training or other rigmarole. Every volunteer opportunity is different.
That being said, you might consider reading to kids the People’s Community Clinic waiting area or volunteering to assist with programs and services at the library. If you’d like to combine nature and kids, consider the array of opportunities at Candlelight Ranch, where you can assist with outdoor activities like zip-lining or nature walks.
Volunteer with seniors
The biggest need for seniors is time and attention. Isolation and inactivity can diminish our quality of life, so anytime you can work with seniors to get them talking and moving, you’re helping enrich their lives tremendously. Plus they’re generally fun, interesting people with as lots to share!
One way to reach a lot of seniors with information they need is to lead a fall-prevention class. The Area Agency on Aging needs folks to teach a 4-week class on fall prevention to people 60 and older. You might also sign up to deliver meals with Meals on Wheels, which always needs drivers and is one of the best volunteer opportunities in town.
Long before Uber, there was DriveASenior, an network of volunteers who gives rides to seniors to appointments, social outings, shopping and errands, and more. You can also volunteer to help with small chores like changing light bulbs or mowing the grass. Check out these three sites for more opportunities to work with our senior community.
Volunteer outside
The fresh air and a little light sweat are good for the soul. But before you launch another round of disc golf, consider putting that energy to work for the greater good. Keep Austin Beautiful is the home of park clean-ups, but you might also try volunteering with Green Corn Project to install new organic gardens across the community. Or consider taking a different tack, being outdoors and helping kids. The Ghisallo Cycling Initiative needs help at its clinics teaching kids how to ride safely.
Volunteer with pets
It doesn’t take a scientist to tell us that holding a puppy or kitty-cat makes us happy. Just about every shelter in the Austin area could use your help, caring for animals, walking dogs, cleaning cages and even fostering and doing home visits. See opportunities with Austin Pets Alive, Bastrop Animal Rescue and Williamson Country Regional Animal Shelter.
For other less obvious opportunities, check out  Service Dogs Inc, which is  looking for help at UT football games, an interesting opportunity to serve a good cause, be around dogs and be part of the Longhorn crowd. Or, if you’re ready to take your volunteering to the next level, consider being the volunteer founding president of Canine Companions, an organization that provides service dogs to people with disabilities. Maybe the world is telling you it’s time for a serious commitment to positive action…?
Photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash
Art of the Gala Oct 23 Austin
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