Every time you turn on the TV, read the newspaper, or go online, you're confronted with all the problems that exist in our neighborhoods, nation and world. From unemployment to natural disasters, high school dropout rates to neighborhood murders and from war to illness and poverty, problems are seemingly endless and can leave you feeling depressed and powerless. It's no wonder that over 27 million Americans (1 out of every 10 people) take antidepressants. The good news is that we're not powerless and it's possible to make a meaningful impact that truly changes the world.
Although most Americans already lead busy lives, it's possible to make a contribution in a way that's stress-free and not time consuming. In fact, most people who volunteer are surprised by the unexpected benefits they receive when giving to others. Nothing can compare to seeing the direct effects of your work, solving world problems and filling urgent needs in your neighborhood. Changing the world can change our own lives as well. Here are six simple ways you can make a meaningful difference:
1. Volunteer Online
Even if you're short on time or can't get out of the house, there are plenty of ways that you can make a difference online. You can send emails to American soldiers through www.EmailOurMilitary.com. If you're passionate about generating awareness for a specific issue such as a disease that has affected a family member, a great way to inform others is to start a blog about it. Even if you're not tech-savvy, don't fear! Sites such as www.blogger.com have simple (and free) ways for anyone to create a blog. Another option is to volunteer through the United Nations at www.OnlineVolunteering.org. There are thousands of ways to make an impact without even leaving the house.
2. Use your Hidden Talent
Have a special skill that you can share with others? This is a great way to help raise money for causes that are personally meaningful to you. If you're a gifted painter and enjoy painting on the weekends, you can donate one of your masterpieces to a charity auction. Or, if you're musically talented, offer to give a concert at your church or favorite coffeehouse. People who attend can give donations to an organization you believe in.
3. Get Fit
Commit yourself to training for a 10k or half-marathon that benefits a nonprofit organization that's important to you. These types of events occur year-round and are affiliated with all sorts of causes. This is a great incentive to get in shape, and it provides a way to connect with people who care about the same issues that motivate you.
4. Make Your Lunch
Decide to brown-bag your lunch at least three days a week instead of going out for fast food. By doing this, you'll save both money and calories. You can then donate the extra money you would have spent at restaurants to organizations that work to reduce hunger, such as America's Second Harvest, Share our Strength, or Feed the Children.
5. Go For a Walk
If you have elderly neighbors that have a difficult time getting outdoors, offer to walk their dogs a couple days a week. This can be a great way to form meaningful bonds with neighbors. Plus, having a canine companion while walking is fun!
6. Be Crafty
Like to make crafts or knit? These stress-relieving activities can also enable you to give back to others. For example, instead of making another scarf that you're not likely to wear, you can knit a baby blanket for a newborn whose parents can't afford to buy one. Once your blanket is finished, simply take it to a nearby hospital. While you're there, you can take a peek at the babies that have just been born. Talk about a mental health boost!
Volunteering enables you to connect with others and make a significant difference. Last year, over 1 in 4 Americans engaged in service, helping people in need and contributing to finding solutions to our local and global problems. By volunteering, you can help rewrite the distressing news headlines that never seem to end. It's your world, help make it a better place.