Beat winter blues, improve your health: volunteer

The presents are unwrapped, the decorations are put away and the relatives are gone. After weeks of whirlwind holiday activities, many of us may find ourselves feeling a little let down. Add to this the gloom of gray skies, and before you know it, you’ve got a full-blown case of the winter blues.

Sure, you can try vitamin C, submit to light therapy, eat organic or even resort to Prozac. But there is a very simple way to cure the winter blues and possibly even improve your health without pills.

A 2007 study conducted by the Corporation for National and Community Service suggests that volunteering actually leads to improved health.

“The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research” found that “volunteers have greater longevity, higher functional ability, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease.”

Volunteering can help fight the winter blues simply by getting people involved in the lives of others. So, why aren’t more people volunteering?

One of the most popular reasons people give for not volunteering is that they don’t have time. Many think that volunteering takes a regular commitment, but there are lots of one-time opportunities like helping out at an event or cleaning up a park that can have a big impact.

In the last two months, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Volunteer Corps program sought out volunteers to set up for a yard sale at the Patch Community Club, work in the Kelley Community Mail Room during the holiday season, and help out at Army Community Service.

All three asked no more than a four-hour commitment.
Another excuse is that people don’t think their efforts make a difference. All you have to do is look at last year’s volunteer results in the Stuttgart military community to realize this is simply not true.

Last year, volunteers donated more than 200,000 hours of their time across the community. They organized spelling bees, taught Sunday school and coached youth sports, among other things.

Their efforts saved the garrison more than $4 million in labor costs.
Volunteers make the Stuttgart military community a better place to live by adding programs and events that aren’t funded by the garrison, according to Laura Jean Davis, the garrison’s volunteer coordinator. “If we didn’t have volunteers to do it, it wouldn’t happen,” she said.

Another excuse is that the paperwork involved in tracking volunteer hours is too time consuming.

Those were the old days.
USAG Stuttgart volunteers register and keep track of their hours through the Volunteer Management Information System, an online tool that provides a real-time snapshot of volunteer activities at any given time.

Jennifer Jones, a volunteer, uses the system to log the hours she puts in with the ACS Information and Referral program. “It’s a step by step process — it’s not complicated,” she said.

The USAG Stuttgart Volunteer Corps program has hundreds of volunteer opportunities that offer flexible hours, hands-on experience and training.
Don’t let the winter blues defeat you this year. Tackle them head-on by volunteering.