“Helping is Healing”: words to reflect on for International Volunteer Day

Helping is healing. It’s such a profound and true statement that Kim Barthel and Theo Fleury wrote an entire chapter about it in ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’. These are perfect words to reflect on today, for International Volunteer Day.

International Volunteer Day (IVD) mandated by the UN General Assembly, is held each year on 5 December. It is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work among their communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, government authorities and the private sector. [United Nations]

For those of us who have volunteered before, you probably had a selfless reason for doing so. But have you ever done something for someone else, and had an amazing feeling come over you? Don’t feel guilty about this, it doesn’t make you selfish, there’s a lot of science behind that good feeling.

“When we engage in helping behaviours, it’s proven to turn up the volume on that oxytocin again, which naturally relieves stress. Our giving-back behaviours connect to the reward system of the brain that releases dopamine and endorphins.” – Kim Barthel from ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake’

So by helping others, we are helping ourselves heal as well, in a physical and mental sense. Need more convincing to give back? Here are a few more reasons why volunteering helps:

  • Scientists have found that engaging in a generous act or even witnessing one, immediately increases antibody levels. [WebMd]
  • Volunteering is more beneficial to your health than exercising and eating well. [Psychology Today]
  • It helps establish connections and create relationships with positive people and like-minded people.

“Even when medical history, age, socioeconomic status, social support network, marital status, and physical/emotional health were taken into consideration, volunteering appears to reduce risk of death by 25 per cent.” [Psychology Today

Then, of course, there’s the simple feeling of having a purpose that comes along with our acts of generosity; turning our trauma and pain into an opportunity to change someone else’s life or give back to society. A great example of this is how Kim and Theo talk about the Victor Walk in ‘Conversations with a Rattlesnake‘, the movement that has had a positive ripple effect throughout its growing community of those affected by childhood trauma.

Have you had a positive healing experience in helping or volunteering? Please share with us on Facebook or Twitter.

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