The Right Way to Volunteer

It’s easy to forget that volunteering can be both rewarding and fun. But did you know it could also improve your mental health? According to Melissa Lopez, a psychotherapist in Pasadena, Calif., “the psychological benefits include a sense of purpose, forward direction and a sense of connection to others.” But she adds, finding the right way to give back is the key to boosting your well-being. Consider the following questions before taking the jump:

  • How much time can I offer? While some organizations rely on volunteers to survive, others only need services for a specific event. Know your availability and don’t over-commit yourself.
  • What are my skills? Do you speak Spanish or cook healthy traditional meals? If so, Lopez encourages Latinas to use their skills to empower their communities, where there are often gaps in public services. “Volunteering doesn’t have to be strictly done in an agency or organization,” she says. “Sometimes, we in the community know our needs best.”
  • Which issues do I care about most? Giving your energy to something you deeply care about -- whether it’s working with kids or teaching Latino dance -- will bring fulfillment and may even lead to a possible career change!
  • What are my limits? If working with domestic violence victims or in a rape crisis shelter triggers you, these may not be the best settings. On the other hand, “you can volunteer for these causes in a fundraising or event-planning capacity,” says Lopez.