Blogs,  Kind Living

Why volunteering is the answer for my generation

By Eva Bouwer (The Sunshine Journey), March 2021

This article is written from my own interest on the effects and capacity of volunteering on your feelings. Most examples come from my own experiences, complemented with research.


OUR SITUATION

I’d like to introduce myself as one of many: I grew up in the ’90s, was able to choose my school, my sports, the friends I hang out with. And I got to choose the study I liked. I could study leisure management, lifestyle informatics, fashion, branding, or any other modern study.

We grew up rich, so to say. Rich in choices, rich in money. We can do anything, be anything, become what we want. Do what we want. Our motto: THE SKY’S THE LIMIT. No goal in life is unreachable. We can be successful in everything and become famous for it. We have the tools and the platforms for it.

But what do all these choices bring us? The more choices and options we have, the more stress we may experience from choosing. Where do we find what we truly like? Is what we choose, going to satisfy us for the rest of our lives? Where do we find our purpose? What do we add to the world, to society, if we finish our bachelor’s in leisure management or branding? 

The choices we make, the paths we take, all lead us to who we become. 

Nowadays, more and more people in my generation wonder whether they chose the right path. Whether what they’ve become, is really what they wanted. Whether what they add to the world, lives up to their expectations. And whether who they’ve become, is the person they hoped to be. Dealing with these questions and going back in time, wondering whether they made the right choice out of the hundred choices they got, turns into the highest amount of burn-out in history (8% of all employees under age 30, 2021).

Others try to avoid these questions for themselves, by trying to do everything 100% and adding more and more weight on their shoulders to prove themselves. Proving themselves to their families, to their friends, to their managers, and the CEO. Which turns out in the same exhausting feeling, being unsatisfied. 


IN SEARCH OF HAPPINESS

With all the choices that we have in life, we can of course choose a different path, take a step in another direction. But important in that matter is the question that arises: what is it we want to do that makes us happy? Genuine and basic happy.

In search of happiness, it is important to focus on what is truly important to you: it may be love, social interaction, and finding satisfaction or gratitude. It can be a feeling of success. Also, more and more people are finding happiness in being socially involved, in taking care of the world. 

Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate. Just saying.

Another important part of happiness lies within gratitude. Being thankful for what you have, what you’ve become, and what you’ve achieved. There is a strong power in gratitude that can be revealed. And volunteering can strongly contribute to gratitude. Helping others will be paired with insights, no doubt. Insights you may or may not have before. A new perspective on an existing situation, such as your own, can be beneficial for a feeling of gratitude. Feeling you are in a lucky position, you are thankful for where you are in life or society, will benefit a greater sense of happiness. 

Concerning the various questions, we may ask ourselves, whether we made the right choices or not. Whether we are doing the right thing in life. Here volunteering can fill in a beautiful supporting role. As a volunteer, you can try and experience different roles. Roles you wished to become when you were young (like a sous-chef or an event coordinator). And with volunteering, you can try them without the attached job. You can develop your skillset to move forward in the future. Volunteering can become a journey of developing yourself, of finding what you truly like to do or what you truly miss doing in your current job. 

And if you volunteer regularly, this role can become the add-on to your existing job to make you feel more satisfied and in balance. It can even become the discovery of your future road map in your career. 

Helping out gives meaning in life and this helps to find your purpose. And finding that purpose, that goal gives the satisfaction we need. With feeling satisfied in what we do, we find happiness. 


WHY WORKING AS A VOLUNTEER BRINGS HAPPINESS

Volunteering in the essence is helping someone else or something else for free. We may all know that, but in a young society earning is important to many of us. And earning comes with success, the rat race to strive for better. To strive for perfection, because that will make you earn more. But what if you would step away from that and let go of the earnings and all that comes along? Doing something for nothing comes with liberation and freedom. It takes you away from showing, from striving, and from competing. It takes you away from the endless comparison with others.

And that is where freedom and happiness find their way. A joyful feeling and a state of reality. Because with volunteering, there is no such thing as a social ladder. Those you help don’t mind your level of education, the titles you received, or the number of followers you have on Social Media, stand-alone the number of likes. They don’t care. 

Help is kindness, helping is human. Doing something for nothing can take you away from the aspects of Social Media, your phone, and the rat-race we are in daily, giving you reality in return. And in that essence, you can find freedom and happiness. 

Volunteering can also fulfill the happiness you feel when achieving success. When you volunteer, you deliver a big contribution to a greater constitute. You make an impact. And most likely, you won’t volunteer on your own: you will be part of a successful team that handles the job together. The satisfying feeling of contributing to the team and achieving success will definitely bring you happiness and satisfaction. 

“Research shows, that giving time, skills and attention is the most powerful path to finding your purpose. You will be able to overcome difficulties and find fulfillment and meaning in life.”

A.M. Wong – The Art and Science of Compassion.

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

It worked for me and I strongly believe it works for so many more. That is why I tell my story, my opinion. I am not the exception, I am an example of one of the many.  One of the many who deals with the same questions and feelings. I believe volunteering can be the answer to many of our questions and unsatisfied feelings. It moved my focus and gave me perspectives on work and life. I found my purpose and balance with volunteering. 

Volunteering is in my experience a great way to find your balance. And, needless to say, that balance is different for everybody. If you don’t feel like volunteering so much, you don’t need to do it regularly. It can work for you once a month, once every two months, once every quarter, or yearly. I would just advise you to try it once and see how you feel. See what it gives you. Maybe you’ll find your balance. Find your happiness. 

“Making a difference for someone is a true win-win. Research shows that being there for someone enhances happiness.”

Psycholoog Najla Edriouch

“Never underestimate the difference you can make in the lives of others. Step forward, reach out, and help others. Help someone not for reward, but for the sake of changing a life.” SRFoundation

*Interested to try out volunteering? Organizations I would recommend you to follow (on Instagram) or to check online for activities to apply to (in The Netherlands): NL Cares, Serve the City, Ympact020, de Buurtbuik , De Nieuwe Gevers (100% digitaal) or Voedselbank Nederland.