Volunteering: Freely Offered, Freely Received  

Volunteering: Freely Offered, Freely Received

Thumbnail image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

By Jan Larraine Cox  

The Importance of Volunteerism

It may seem that social groups exist for our attempts to stave off isolation, but they can evolve into a gift we give each other that takes on a life of its own. A case in point is the incredible generosity we are now participating in worldwide through charitable organizations to give Ukrainians our support, especially in this time of dire need.  

Appreciation of the relationships we continue to build in life keeps us optimistic as we age and can have a positive effect on our brains. Looking forward to events with our friends and building anticipation in our various social groups focuses us on the present and keeps the past and distant future at bay. This mindfulness practice has the added benefit of reducing stress, which we all can use.  

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How volunteering can help with memory

Volunteering to do your part in various groups to keep them vibrant and active allows you to interact with others in sharing new knowledge, sometimes learning new skills and vocabulary yourself. Though short-term memory seems to decline with age, the good news is vocabulary increases! Enjoying fun word games like Wordle or Scrabble can also help our brains stay spirited.  

Image by Richard Innfield from Pixabay

And dance, dance, dance! Social interaction with exercise gets blood to your brain, boosting thinking skills and delivering your brain glucose for energy. Aerobic exercise even twice a week halves your risk of general dementia, according to Dr. John Medina, Molecular Biologist.  

Sleep is the key to processing memories and flushing toxins from our brains. Staying clear of caffeine and alcohol six hours before sleep is one of the best ways to sleep well and avoid decline in our later years, says Dr. Medina.  

Loss of sleep hurts attention, executive function, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning and motor dexterity, Medina continues. The neurons of your brain show vigorous rhythmical activity when you’re asleep—perhaps replaying what you experienced and learned that day, he says.  

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Volunteering to share a meal with a neighbor can help both of you to learn about new foods. Especially important, include foods rich in nutrients such as vegetables, nuts, olive oil, berries, seafood and whole grains which have been shown to improve memory and lower the risk of brain disease.  

Your social connections can be so important in managing stress as you volunteer to communicate with friends that they do have control over challenges; that they are not helpless.  

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This volunteering to assist with friends under chronic stress can help prevent adrenaline from creating scars in blood vessels, which can cause a heart attack or stroke. Also, cortisol from stress damages the cells of the hippocampus, crippling one’s ability to learn and remember.