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Volunteering and Mental Health: National Volunteer Week is April 16 – 22

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be used in place of professional advice, treatment, or care in any way. Lawyers, law students, judges, and other legal professionals in Massachusetts can find more on scheduling a Free & Confidential appointment with a licensed clinician here.

Have you considered that volunteering could be for your own benefit?

At Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, we are committed to well-being, resilience and improving lives in the legal community. Interestingly, volunteering is one way to accomplish this goal.

“Studies have indicated that volunteering is great for your mental health,” said Susan Albers, PsyD, psychologist for Cleveland Clinic. “It has been shown to decrease stress levels, depression, anxiety and boost your overall health and satisfaction with life.” Dr. Albers suggests that when you help other people, it activates the reward center in your brain and releases serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins. What a powerful combination!

Here are some reasons to volunteer:

    1. Leads to lower rates of depression, anxiety and physical health problems.
      According to the recent NORC survey, the legal community in Massachusetts has a higher rate of depression, burnout and anxiety compared to the general population. Not only does volunteering help to reduce these issues, but it also “reduces stress and further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness” says Angela Thoreson, a clinical social worker (Quoted from the article in Mayo Clinic Health System, Speaking of Health).
    2. Adds meaning and a sense of purpose in your life.
      As lawyers, paralegals, and legal business professionals, we often do help those in need, however, some of us don’t easily find that meaning and sense of purpose in our specific line of work. Volunteering can help us find that.
      By spending time helping others, volunteers report that it enriches their sense of purpose (projecthelping.org). They feel useful and know that they are having an impact on someone else’s physical and/or mental health.
    3. Increases your social interactions.
      Working in the legal profession often calls for time working independently like writing and researching. Volunteering to mentor a junior attorney or volunteering for a nonprofit using your legal skills can help one feel less isolated and build a more robust support system as well as make new friends.
    4. Gives you the opportunity to share a common interest and/or goal.
      Sometimes in the legal profession we work in adverse situations. Finding a volunteer opportunity to work on the same side of the table and work towards a common goal or sharing a common interest makes us feel more aligned and connected to our community.
    5. Improves self-esteem.
      Providing pro bono work can make us feel good about ourselves. When giving back to people and improving their lives, it can give us a sense of accomplishment and pride.
    6. Teaches new skills.
      In the legal profession, sometimes, we are focused on only one type of work and thus not expanding our skillset. Some volunteer opportunities allow you to learn new skills. Not only are you learning the new skill, but it can go beyond that by strengthening some areas of your brain. “Embracing a new activity that also forces you to think and learn and requires ongoing practice can be one of the best ways to keep the brain healthy,” says Dr. John N. Morris, director of social and health policy research at the Harvard-affiliated Institute on Aging Research (Quoted from Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School).Here is the bottom line: there are many compelling reasons to volunteer and help a community or someone in need, and it can help you feel better and improve your well-being.

Find the best volunteer option for you. Below are a variety of opportunities both in and out of the legal profession to help boost your well-being and mental health.

Non-Legal:

The following website highlights the variety of volunteer opportunities in Massachusetts from helping children, animals, people with cancer, civil rights, homeless & housing, environment, seniors, suicide prevention and more: Great Non Profits

If you cannot make a commitment on a regular basis, here are some ideas:

  • Shovel snow for an older person (now that the weather is nicer, mow their lawn), plant some flowers or take in their trash can
  • Bring meals to someone in need: an elderly neighbor, someone homebound, a family struggling with a medical situation, or a care giver with a new baby
  • Donate money or food
  • Visit and provide company for someone who is isolated
  • Drive a neighbor to a medical appointment

If you don’t have time or money, here are some other helpful options:

  • Charity Miles is a free app that enables you to earn money for a charity whenever you walk, run or bike. Anytime. Anywhere. For more information visit: CharityMiles
  • Send an e-card to a child with cancer to lift their spirits. For more information visit: St. Jude’s Online Card Maker
  • Take a neighbor food shopping when you go food shopping
  • Walk your elderly neighbor’s dog when you walk your dog
  • Write an upbeat letter to those battling depression and mental illness. For more information, visit: Letters Against Depression

Legal Options – Ideas for Pro Bono Work:

  • Assist Asylum seekers
  • Assist non-profit organizations including helping them with a lease or doing a real estate closing or writing/negotiating contracts
  • Advocate for victims of financial/consumer fraud or assault/domestic violence
  • Participate in high school moot courts

Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers is also developing volunteer opportunities within our community. If you have a skill that you would like to offer, please contact Amy Levine, Programs & Volunteer Administrator at amy@lclma.org or 617-249-4616.

Make a difference for others and yourself!

 

CATEGORIES: Flourishing

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