Have you faced difficult times and come through to the other side? Odds are, you had some help along the way - whether from friends, neighbors, colleagues, or a community organization. Now that times have improved, it’s time to give back. 

By helping someone who needs it, you are sharing your good fortune and making your community stronger. Even better - you are helping yourself, too. Studies show that volunteering has positive effects on your mood, health, and even your longevity. 

Links:

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Mood and longevity - https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-773

Health - http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2013-21685-006

Ready to give back? Here are some ideas. 

* Volunteer - Whether you are interested in arts, the environment, sports or puppies, there’s an organization that needs your help. Whether you sign up for a two-hour shift at an annual festival, or join a board for several years, there’s a volunteer opportunity that will suit your skills and time availability. 

* Mentor - Not ready or able to commit to a formal volunteer situation? Offer your expertise and mentorship to someone who needs it. Offer a junior colleague some advice, or help your intern apply for their first full-time position. If you aren’t currently at a job, don’t discount your mentoring role! Helping the kids with their homework counts too. 

* Contribute to a cause - If time is short, consider donating to a cause you believe in. Any amount helps, and generosity benefits you, too. Giving to others has been shown to have benefits for mood and health, and can even be contagious, creating a ripple effect of generosity that reaches far beyond your network. 

Link for more information - https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you/

* Help raise awareness - Your voice can be an important tool for raising awareness about various challenges. For example, while people often use cute symbols such as hearts, ribbons or daffodils to raise awareness of diseases, breast cancer survivor Erin Smith Chieze found her cancer because of an image that showed, using lemons, what breast cancer can look like. She recognized herself in the image, and immediately went to the doctor, saving her life. She is using her voice, as a cancer survivor, to encourage people to share concrete, actionable information about cancer and other illnesses. 

Link for more information - https://www.aol.com/article/lifestyle/2017/01/18/viral-photo-of-lemons-early-signs-of-cancer/21653675/ 

In our last article, we're going to give some ideas on how to support a friend who is having a hard time.