Beat the Winter Blues
By Jennifer Imai
As the daylight hours diminish and sunny days are few and far between, we Pacific Northwesterners brace ourselves for winter. Ours may not be as harsh as winters in the Midwest or New England, but it brings its own kind of punishment: drenching rain or persistent mist, and a heavy, gray ceiling of clouds.
If the impending gray is the harbinger of gloom for you, try something different this winter. Reviews of the past 20 years of studies on health and well-being conclude that some of our happiness is predetermined by genetics, but much of our happiness is within our control. Proven remedies to the blues include meditation, going outside, and taking part in cultural activities, such as concerts or plays. These remedies work because they provide physical activity, mental stimulation, or face-to-face interaction with other people. Want to find all three mood-boosters in one complete package? Volunteer.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, recent research “found statistically significant, positive relationships between volunteering and lower levels of depression.” Think about it: volunteering gets you out of the house (physical activity), among other people (face to face interaction), and involved in meaningful work (mental stimulation). You benefit and so does the community. Perhaps it’s that last element—helping others--that makes the impact of volunteering so powerful. 95% of the people who volunteer believe that it makes their community a better place.
And here’s more good news: according to the Harvard Health Blog, volunteering isn’t just a mental boost. “A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan.”
Now that you have evidence that volunteering is good for you, where do you start? The most important thing when volunteering is to give time doing something you enjoy or believe in, or you will end up frustrated and miss the benefits entirely. Do you love the theater? Volunteer to usher, and then watch the plays.
Would you like something closer to home? The Cedar Mill Community Library has opportunities around the community as well as inside the library. If you love books, volunteer in the library, and see new books as they hit the shelves. Are you an expert on your iPad? Share the wealth! Help others learn to use them in the library’s Computer Lab. Prefer to be out in the community? Retired school teachers enjoy giving Story Times as part of our BookShare program—no grading, no parent conferences, just kids and books! Literature-loving volunteers conduct Book Group discussions for adults at senior living communities, like The Ackerly and Regency Park.
Do you have a retail background? Join the staff at 2nd Edition Resale Shop, which funds the library. Love shoes and handbags? Or vintage jewelry? Help sort and price donations. Share that passion and experience! Whatever your talents, you’ll meet vibrant, like-minded people who develop friendly bonds through shared endeavors. You’ll experience a feeling of happiness and well-being that comes from doing something for someone else. You’ll gain by giving.
This winter, beat the blues, banish the gray. Volunteer.
- Book Processor: prepare items for circulation: apply stamps, stickers, covers. Once a week.
- Technology help (smartphones, iPads, laptops): You needn’t be an expert, but must have some personal experience with devices and be willing to tackle challenges and explore options. Once a week.
- Outreach Story Time presenter: once a month at area childcare site. Your car. Prep help provided.
- Outreach Book Group Co-Host: Laurel Parc, once a month. Your car. Prep help provided.
- Cashiers: once a week
- Donation sorters: special experience in jewelry, linens, toys or shoes in high demand. Once a week.
Audubon Society of Portland: