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Charity Work: How and Why To Do It

An important component to mental health and happiness

Susan M. Mumm, MA

As a mental health professional, I believe that being involved in some type of on-going charitable work is an important component to mental health and happiness. Participating in charity work adds a special meaning and purpose to your life. Charity work also creates a sense of connection and belongingness to the greater human family of which we are all a part. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by the endless problems of the world and want to withdraw into a sheltered haven where you don’t have to think about the pain of the world. However, it is my firm belief that this retreat strategy does not really work; human beings are psychologically tribal animals, and need to participate in improving the welfare of the “tribe” in order to feel complete.

Every person has something of value to offer the world, you just need to find the niche that is right for you. Charity can be in the form of donating time and energy, or financial resources, or a combination of both. Let me discuss volunteering time and energy first.

In order for your involvement in charitable work to be a satisfying and rewarding experience, you have to choose charity work that fits your temperament. You need to do some self reflection about what kind of experiences would work best for you. Factors you need to consider include:

  1. Is it important for your charity work to be solution based i.e. involve getting at the root of a problem? Or do you have more of a “I made someone’s life better life in a small, personal way today” kind of perspective?
  2. Do you want to be involved in trying to change people’s opinions?
  3. Do you prefer to work in small, medium, or large groups, or on your own?
  4. Do you want to be directly involved with the population you are helping?
  5. Do you want to be in a leadership role?
  6. Do you want to work on local, national, or international issues?
  7. Are you willing to work on issues that will probably include set backs and where change will tend to happen small steps at a time?
  8. Is it important to you that your charity work is intellectually stimulating?
  9. Is it important to you that your charity work utilizes your creativity?
  10. Do you prefer charity work that is low key i.e. no meetings, on-going responsibilities, etc.--you just show up and work?

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