On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness information for all Oklahomans, published three times a week.

Make Volunteering Part of Your New Year’s Resolutions

At the end of 2017, many Oklahomans spent time reflecting on the past year while planning resolutions to enhance the future and create a better life. Now that we have entered into the new year, why not add volunteering to your list of 2018 resolutions and benefit those in your community, as well as yourself?

You’ll find 8 million or more results when you enter “volunteering for health” into the Google search engine. Studies conducted around the globe have found many links between good health and time spent volunteering. Research published by the federal government’s Corporation for National and Community Service found that, statistically, people who routinely volunteer (at least 100 hours a year, which breaks down to two hours a week), especially older adults, experience better physical and mental health than those who do not. However, you must give your time freely and expect nothing in return to truly experience benefits, according to one study from the American Psychological Association.

Why Volunteer?

According to Anissa Chadick, employee wellness manager at INTEGRIS, she often sees improvement in employees’ health when they volunteer. “Sometimes people don’t even know how much they are helping themselves by giving back. From lowering stress to boosting self-confidence, volunteering offers so many health benefits,” she says.

“For that reason, if an employee is enrolled in the INTEGRIS health maintenance program, an essential requirement is a commitment to spending time as a volunteer with our in-house programs. We try to put our money where our mouth is.” 

Did you know people who volunteer live longer? A review of the health effects of volunteering found that helping others on a regular basis — like serving food in a soup kitchen or reading to the blind — can reduce early mortality rates by 22 percent, compared to those in people who don’t participate in such activities.

Another important benefit? Volunteering actually helps keep your brain strong, especially for aging adults.  A recent study by Johns Hopkins showed that volunteering can delay and even reverse the onset of diseases and cognitive decline associated with aging. And volunteering also helps people feel useful and gives them a sense of purpose as they age.

But no matter your age, studies show that once volunteers feel like they are having an impact in their community, they feel more connected and engaged. According to Psychology Today, community volunteer work, in particular, offers a sense of pride and fellowship as a volunteer enriches his or her own neighborhood.

“Being part of something bigger than myself is very important in how I try to live my life,” Chadick says. “I know when fighting with anxiety and depression, if I get out and start doing something for someone else, it is a great way to feel better. Not only do they reap the benefit – but I feel it, too.”

Volunteering also provides a great opportunity for social contact with other volunteers and you might make a new friend or two. Many volunteer opportunities even provide certain experiences which help build new skill-sets and better people skills.

How to Become a Volunteer

Now that we’ve explained all the benefits, you’re sold on becoming a volunteer, right? All you need to find are worthy volunteer opportunities.

A good place to start is somewhere you’re already invested. Do you give money to a church or charity? See what volunteer opportunities are available within those communities. Local food pantries, hospitals and animal shelters always need help.

At INTEGRIS, there are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for those passionate about health care and healing. According to Karli Stroh, the metro director of volunteer services at INTEGRIS, there are 800 lifetime INTEGRIS Volunteer Auxiliary members. She says, “No matter a volunteer’s skills or interests, we can always find a good fit. If working with people is your desire – we have the volunteer role for you! If you prefer to work in a more private, quiet setting – we have the volunteer role for you! Each person has the opportunity to put a personal fingerprint on volunteer service to our hospitals.” Here are just some of the volunteering opportunities at INTEGRIS.

Mother/Baby Services - Handmade stitched or knitted caps and blankets bring a special remembrance of the birth experience.

Patient Services - Mail and flower delivery, book cart, patient visitation, assisting in patient requests such as ice and snacks, stroke peer visitor, horticultural greenhouse and pet therapy.

Family Services - Guest beds for overnight guests, maintaining coffee/snack areas for visitors, greeters at information desks throughout the hospitals, providing escort, direction, transport assistance, and other help to visitors and families so they feel at home.

Gift Shops - Not only a great place to shop, these retail outlets provide needed goods and services for the patients and families during their stay. All proceeds are used by the volunteer auxiliaries to continually enhance and improve services in the organization.

Business and Record Areas - Volunteers help staff file, retrieve requested medical records, copy and assist in many business functions related to a patient's stay.

Staff and Department Support - From restocking supplies, getting a warm blanket, or transporting a patient, volunteers help INTEGRIS staff work efficiently so they can spend more time caring for patients and their families.

Spiritual Need of Patients and Visitors - Bibles, handmade crosses and pastoral visits help ease the stress of being ill or having a loved one hospitalized.

To learn more about volunteering at INTEGRIS, visit online at integrisok.com/volunteer or call the department of volunteer services at 405-949-3183.

If volunteering for a health system isn’t the right fit for you, websites like VolunteerMatch.org or Idealist.org are a good bet. These sites match where you live with the available local opportunities, then you can search for the perfect fit for your needs and time constraints. 

Tips for Finding Time to Volunteer

There’s a reason for all the “life hack” posts you see on social media. Our society is busy and looking to do more with less time every day. With an already full schedule, it’s hard to fit a new event into a weekly or a monthly schedule. Below are a few ideas on how to fit volunteering into your already busy new year.

  • Volunteer remotely - Can’t find a place to volunteer in person? Try looking online for ways you can become part of an online community. Companies like iCouldBe provide opportunities to become an eMentor remotely and help others around the world.
  • Supplement life goals - Look for opportunities where you can learn new skills or strengthen existing ones. Habitat for Humanity helps pair the skills you have with home construction projects across the United States, as well as around the world. Choose an opportunity like this and you can strike through multiple items on your to-do list at once.
  • Do what you truly enjoy - While you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, make sure you really enjoy the tasks you commit to. If you’re having fun while you volunteer, it will become more recreational and less of a job, making your time there more beneficial.
  • Pre-book your free days - Does your family get days off throughout the year like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day or Columbus Day? Decide to make these “free days” a family volunteer day and pre-plan events.
  • Company volunteer policies - What do you know about your company’s volunteer policy? Companies across the country are willing to let you use a work day to spend several hours a year volunteering. If your company doesn’t have a volunteer policy, perhaps you can suggest a company-wide volunteer event to help get the ball rolling.

Making volunteering part of your new year’s resolutions is a decision you won’t regret. The benefits of sharing your skills and time with your community will not only make it a better place to live, but provide you with better health and a better quality of life. Don’t hesitate to apply as a volunteer at INTEGRIS if you’re passionate about health care, because the health system is always looking for dedicated volunteers.

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