By Tim Kowols
Count Kewaunee County Sheriff Matt Joski as a believer in the importance of volunteering when it comes to improving mental health. According to Project Helping, volunteering can help curb depressive feelings by 35 percent while also improving your physical wellness and sleep patterns. An avid supporter of several different holiday giving initiatives in Kewaunee County, Joski says the data provides qualitative proof about the good feelings you get when you volunteer.
In the spirit of the holiday season, Joski encourages people to find an organization that really connects with them and give back. You can read more about the links between volunteerism and mental wellness from Sheriff Matt Joski online with this story.
This week I would like to blend two of my favorite topics, Mental Wellness and Volunteerism. You may not think these two have anything in common and I would say that for most of my life I would have agreed with you, but over the past few years I have had the opportunity to experience so many events and people who made me aware that these two topics; Mental Health and Volunteerism are closer connected than I would have ever guessed.
The first person who opened my eyes to this reality was of course my own Mother. Those who know this woman are amazed by her seemingly unending source of energy and optimism at an age when many would rather remain stationary. For most of my life I just assumed that this was how she was hardwired, until I realized that there was a consistent correlation between her pleasant disposition and whatever effort or individual support she was involved in on that given day. She exemplifies the characteristic of a person who needs to be needed.
The second person is a woman I have known most of my life and was a huge part of the Kewaunee County Toys For Tots program for many years; Kathy Mastalir. Although she has retired from the Children’s gift giving and wrapping side of the Toys For Tots program, she is still very active and never without a cheerful greeting. I recall one rainy day as I was heading toward Algoma on STH 42, I noticed a group of people in the ditches picking up garbage and just as I drove past thinking what a miserable job that must be there was Kathy. She looked up and gave me a big smile and a wave as if she were on a beach somewhere looking for seashells.
I am sure that we can all find those people in our lives that are able to maintain optimism and hope through what appear to be trying times, and like myself are not sure where they draw their energy from. Turns out there is science which supports that our involvement in charitable works for others has a direct link to our own mental wellness.
Recently I attended a workshop put on by the Wellness Council of Wisconsin. This was an amazing event which involved healthcare providers and subject matter experts from around the country sharing ideas surrounding the topic of Mental, Physical, Financial and Spiritual Wellness. One of the presentations which I found especially interesting was put on by the founder of an organization called “Kyndfulness”
In this presentation the speaker provided the story of his own journey and how regardless of wealth or material possessions he continued to feel a sense of emptiness and depression. It was only after being offered an opportunity to volunteer in which he reluctantly participated did he realize what his life had been missing the entire time; the sense of purpose and meaning. Subsequently he embarked on a mission to substantiate what he suspected and found the following results. Those who engage in acts of charity or even random acts of kindness experience a significant reduction in both stress and anxiety. One of the reasons is that in helping others we increase our own level of gratitude which in turn:
- Increases our physical wellness (16% fewer physical symptoms- 10% less physical pain)
- Improves our sleep patterns( 8% more sleep- 25% higher sleep quality)
- Improves Mental wellness (35% less depressive feelings)
While making donations to your favorite cause is a great gesture and should not be discounted, the basis behind this philosophy is the purposeful physical act of getting involved and committing time and effort to a cause which you find meaningful and fulfilling.
What better time than the holidays to consider committing oneself to such endeavors. There are no shortages of opportunities here in our own communities to get involved and make a difference both in the lives of those you are helping and even in your own life. It is truly a win- win proposition! If you would like more information on the Kyndfulness initiative you can go to: www.projecthelping.org