7 Ways To Volunteer And Give Back In 2016, From Going Green To Petting Pups

In need of a New Year's resolution? How about one of these seven ways to volunteer in 2016? From program work to individual actions that can help make a difference, these seven ways to give back vary in effort and style, but one thing is for sure with all of them — you're helping someone or something.

There's a reason people choose to volunteer again and again. It feels good! It feels so good! Is life really worth living if you're entirely consumed with yourself all of the time? Many people who have suffered with sadness, depression, anxiety, or any other self-involved health issue will tell you that being of service to others is the ultimate medicine. Why? Because it allows you to look outside of yourself, and that my friends, in a world of self obsession and ego-centric norms, is a wonderful and invaluable thing. Just think about it for a second.

So enough you for now. Focus on everyone else. Focus on how you can make somebody else's day, and it will inevitably make your own. Isn't that a wondrous truth? Go pet a dog, pay a stranger's toll, rake up some leaves, or whatever else it takes to make you feel your best. You'll thank yourself for it, and everyone else around you will thank you too. It's a win-win.

1. Earn money for charities while you exercise.

Charity Miles is a wonderfully made phone app that tracks how far you are walking, biking, or running in an effort to donate to charity. How it works? Corporate sponsors sign up to donate to charities in relation to the app's statistics (i.e. how much you're running!). That's right, you don't even have to find a sponsor — you just have to exercise!

2. Do something nice for a stranger.

You don't have to be involved with a specific program to give back to the community. Kindness goes a long way, and if you're kind to somebody, they're likely going to want to share that kindness with somebody else. Butterfly effect, anyone? Pay someone's toll, cover a stranger's coffee, or even just hold open a door for someone you don't know. It does things.

3. Sign up to volunteer at an animal shelter.

There are thousands of animal shelters across the country, and the one thing they all have in common? They're most likely understaffed. Even if you're only volunteering one hour a week, it can make a big difference to the animals and staff at your local shelter. Besides, who doesn't want to play with puppies and give kittens some love?

4. Be a mentor.

Mentoring.org can help you find all sorts of mentoring programs in your area, from kids to teens to peers. While you may be mentoring somebody else on a regular basis, I doubt that you'll come away from the experience without learning a thing or two about yourself and your community in the process.

5. Volunteer at your city park.

A community park is a beautiful thing. Help be a part of the team that takes care of it. That's right, your beautiful park needs a lot of regular grooming to stay so pretty. Whether it's raking leaves, picking up garbage, or helping with related fundraisers, there's a handful of ways you can make your park a better place.

6. Go green.

Giving back to the environment is priceless. It's also the only way we're ever going to be able to help undo (or at the very least, slow down) the excessive harm we've already caused our planet. From reusable grocery bags to using a refillable water bottle instead of using disposable ones, you can do a lot by doing a little.

7. Donate your spare change.

It may not seem like much, but donating whatever's left when you break a dollar can be a great start to giving back. Many establishments actually have charity fund containers on their front desk where you can donate on the spot. If they don't? Drop all your spare change in a spare cup at home and donate it every time it reaches the top.

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