• August 22, 2014

Anyone Can Make a Difference: Ways You Can Give Back

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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 12:00 am | Updated: 2:32 am, Thu Jan 2, 2014.

(StatePoint) In today’s connected world, we are flooded with global news 24/7. As a result, many suffer from what experts refer to as “compassion fatigue.” But simple acts of kindness can make your community and world a better place to live. And research says it could even be beneficial to your health.

In fact, in a recent study conducted by Claremont Graduate University, people who felt empathy for a stranger experienced a release of the hormone oxytocin, which is associated with lower blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, reduced pain and improved psychological well-being.

“Reaching out to a stranger benefits both people. It’s a win-win,” says Erin Healy, author of the new novel “Stranger Things,” which she was inspired to write in order to raise awareness of sex trafficking and human slavery.

Many people are loathe to forge connections with strangers and help others, due to introversion, fear, or concerns that what they have to offer might not be enough. However, Healy points out that a small change in attitude can help spur you to take meaningful action. She offers some quick tips for surmounting your hurdles and giving back:

• Be you. Harness your talents, abilities and the resources already at your disposal to give back or raise awareness. When it comes to helping others, there’s no cookie-cutter way to do it.

“Teach a class, buy supplies, be an advocate -- it’s all about pinpointing what you can do to shine a light on an issue and help improve it, rather than getting mired in what you can’t accomplish,” says Healy. “At present, I can’t travel to India to infiltrate a brothel and pull girls out. I can’t be a live-in ‘mom’ at an aftercare home. But I can write a book. I can help to raise awareness.”

• Shop Smart. With a little research you can better ensure your consumer dollars are not supporting companies that don’t share your values. Consider shopping from companies that donate a portion of their proceeds to non-profit organizations and foundations that support causes about which you are passionate.

• Think local. “When I started researching ‘Stranger Things’ I was surprised to learn how many small organizations in my own city are already making efforts to aid victims of human trafficking,” Healy says. “Let your heart lead you to a local cause. You can empower yourself by helping those already doing the work.”

• Think random. You may not have the time to make a long-term volunteering commitment, but every day presents opportunities, big and small, to show kindness to strangers when you take the time to notice them. 

• Connect with a stranger. By looking outward you gain perspective on your own troubles and realize that you have more to offer than you may have thought. Be intentional, and take time to notice those around you. As you get to know them, you’ll find yourself moved to help.

More information about Healy and her new novel, “Stranger Things,” can be found at www.ErinHealy.com.

Don’t let compassion fatigue or a busy schedule keep you from giving back. There are great ways for everyone to make a difference.

Photo Credit: (c) Syda Productions - Fotolia.com

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