National Volunteering

If I watch the news, I see a never-ending stream of negativity, hyperbole, and political arguing. When I talk to people, I hear how tired they are of all the fighting…and yet, the question inevitably comes, “What can we do about it? Where do we even start?”

I think the American people are fed up – perhaps not everyone – but a large majority have had enough of all the intra-fighting but at the same time just can’t seem to find a foothold of where to start improving.

As a scientist, I look at the goals and then the data and from my perspective, the goal is to improve the overall mental health of the country. If we drill that down, then we start asking how can one create widespread improved mental health across such a diverse population? What are some of the most impactful ways we can improve mental health individually.

As a psychologist, I can name a few key goals that have the biggest impact on individuals. As a strategic psychologist, I think about the large impact tasks that can create significant outcomes across a large number of people – and ones that promote not only personal mental health improvement but also cross-human mental health improvement. When we begin to redefine the goal, we improve our chances of hitting the target.

For many, marching was seen as a great way to bring people together. In a way, it is. It provides energy, activity, a joint experience, and a platform to be heard. Strength in numbers is felt in a moment like that. But through my eyes, I have a few concerns – 1) it creates an us-them situation, 2) it is a great start for creating energy but it is not directive or actionable in and of itself, and 3) commonly, marches are a form of protest – yes, they often too support a movement but at the least, also imply a rejection, reaction, or protest of something else. So the question is – what can we do either in addition or instead?

My recommendation is to think holistically.

In other words, we should consider multiple activities that promote personal, cross-person, cross-community, cross-beliefs AND that also contain directionality (an actionable outcome that supports the nation). Volunteering has been proven to promote mental health, physical health, and happiness while lowering depression, psychological distress, and mortality. Volunteering not only helps the individual serving, it helps the person receiving – but it also helps people connect across communities, age, beliefs, backgrounds, and more. I don’t just believe volunteering is good for the soul – the data says it’s good for the nation.

Now the question is….can we quantify and convert the impact to our country if we more effectively and intentionally promoted volunteering efforts? Can we create a national volunteering strategic plan with the goal of promoting connectivity across diversity? More ideas to consider….

Photo by Perry Grone  rawpixel  Robert Baker  Vlad Tchompalov  Vlad Tchompalov

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