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How Helping Others Helps You Live Longer

If you’ve ever been involved in a volunteer program, you know how uplifting and fulfilling the act of helping others can be. There’s no other feeling in the world quite like seeing their smiling faces and knowing that you helped make a difference in somebody’s life. You know that serving the community supports those around you, but did you know it can help you as well?

Turns out, helping others can actually help you live longer. You heard that right: the key to a long and fruitful life might exist in what you give, not in what you get. So, how exactly does helping others help you live longer? Let’s dive into the science behind volunteering and the positive impact altruism can have on your life.

According to TIME, a recent review of the health effects of volunteering found that helping others on a regular basis—such as serving in a community shelter or working with foster youth—can reduce early mortality rates by 22%, compared to mortality rates for those who don’t participate in altruistic activities. The review was published in BMC Public Health and included 40 different studies. Here are a few of the reasonings they found in connection between altruistic acts and mortality rates.

Reduced Rates of Depression
Serving others through volunteering and charitable giving can actually reduce rates of depression and feelings of loneliness within ourselves. Helping others gives you a sense of purpose, pride and compassion knowing that you made a difference in someone’s life. In other words, by brightening others’ days, you can also brighten your own. And when depression rates are reduced, your mental health improves, thus boosting your physical health and helping you to live a longer, fuller life.

Lowered Blood Pressure
Not only does volunteering affect your mental and emotional health, but it can also directly influence your physical health. In a recent study from Carnegie Mellon University, published in Psychology and Aging, researchers found that adults over age 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure. As we age, blood pressure is a strong determining health factor, because it contributes to issues such as heart disease, stroke and… you guessed it, premature death. By helping others in your community, you can also lower your blood pressure and lengthen your lifespan.

Increased Sense of Life Satisfaction
In the craziness of life, it can be easy to get lost in your work, caring for kids or even maintaining a marriage. Through all this mayhem, finding a true calling and purpose is difficult. For many people, volunteering and serving in the community helps provide a new sense of life satisfaction. Knowing that you can truly make a difference in another human being’s life—that brings a real sensation of joy. And when we have an increased sense of life satisfaction overall, each day brings with it a new feeling of purpose and fulfillment.

Expanded Social Connections
Finally, the more you volunteer, the more likely you are to interact with other people. These people can be completely new and different to those already in your social circle, and help expand your current sense of social connections. To put it simply: when you volunteer, you can also make new friends. And study after study has shown that as we age, social connections are a vital component in maintaining our vitality and living longer. By getting involved in the community, your broaden your circle of peers and bring in new avenues for social interactions.

While helping others definitely makes a difference in the community, it can also help you, too. Through reduced rates of depression, lowered blood pressure, increased sense of life satisfaction and expanded social connections, volunteering can actually help you live longer. See how you can get involved in a cause you care about in the community and live a happier, fuller, longer life.

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Brain Injury Services Client Amy Hobbs Featured on WUSA9

Amy Hobbs is a client of Brain Injury Services who was featured on WUSA9 to talk about her brain injury and Brain Injury Awareness Month. As a result of her brain injury, Amy has a rare condition called foreign accent syndrome. The story with Peggy Fox covers some of Amy’s journey and a little bit about her life after brain injury.

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Celebrate Sunshine on the First Day of Spring

Happy springtime! Tomorrow, March 20th, marks the official first day of spring. Are you ready to celebrate? The time has to come to put away those winter coats and start breaking out the shorts and sandals as we embrace the cool, sunshine spring weather.

The first day of spring is definitely a time for celebration. So how can you enjoy the new sunshine of the season? Here are some ideas for how to live your best altruistic life and celebrate sunshine on the first day of spring.

Get outside.
Of course, what’s the simplest way to celebrate the first day of spring? Get outside! The weather might still be a little iffy coming out of winter, but if there’s a glimmer of sunshine, embrace it by getting outdoors and spending time in the cool spring weather. Go for a bike ride with friends, a picnic with family members or even a long walk by yourself for quiet time in the sunshine. Celebrate the new season and feel the rush of the fresh spring air in your lungs.

Clean up the community.
While you’re out and about, see what you can do to get involved and help clean up the community. Things tend to get a little messy during winter, so commit some of your time to an altruistic community cleanup effort. After all, springtime brings with it the famous spring cleaning, which can benefit both your home and your neighborhood.

Start a garden.
During the cleanup session, see how you can start or help maintain a garden—either your own or the community’s. Springtime symbolizes rebirth and new growth, so it’s the absolute perfect time to get your hands a little dirty in the mud by digging up, mulching and planting fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers in a garden. By the time summer rolls around, you’ll be able to fully enjoy both the the figurative and literal fruits of your labor.

Do arts and crafts.
If you have little ones running around your home, then try celebrating springtime with them by doing various arts and crafts activities together. Paint a picture of a flower, dye an egg or get really creative and do a science experiment with a plant. Spring also has a multitude of holidays in it, so there are plenty of projects to choose from. Pick yours or your kiddos’ favorites to practice arts and crafts together.

Invite people into your home.
With the spring weather comes the wonderful option of opening up your doors and letting fresh air—and people—inside. Spring is the perfect time to invite friends, family and neighbors into your home to enjoy each other’s’ company. Get to know someone new in your neighborhood, or get to know someone you’ve already met even better. Open up the doors, shake out the dust of winter, let fresh air in and bring in people to celebrate the new season with you.

Practice meditation.
Finally, the spring season is also a great opportunity to practice meditation in the beautiful weather. Do yoga, start a journal or simply take time to enjoy the quiet outdoors. Meditate on the new life and growth that spring represents, and consider what changes you can make in your life to bring about personal growth. Focus on internalizing peace and balance as you move forward into the season.

Tomorrow is the first day of spring, which means it’s time to embrace the sunshine. Try out these ideas or some of your own to welcome in the new weather and celebrate a season of new life, growth and of course, sunshine.

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Give Back on National Plant a Flower Day

Ah, springtime. As the sun begins to peep out from behind the clouds and the snow starts to melt away, the month of March brings with it just a hint of the upcoming spring weather, soon to be followed by the warm embrace of summer. And what goes better with celebrating springtime than a captivating bouquet of flowers?

Which brings us to March 12th, or as some like to call it, National Plant a Flower Day! Every year, people across the United States celebrate today by planting their favorite flowers as they look forward to the upcoming springtime. And with more than 400,000 different known flowering plant species around the world, they have a lot of options. National Plant a Flower Day is the perfect start to the new season, so if you want to get involved, there are a few ways to join. Here’s how you can give back today.

Start your own garden.
What’s the easiest way to celebrate Plant a Flower Day? By planting flowers, of course. If you haven’t had the chance to start a garden yet, take today as your first opportunity. Choose flowers, plants or even fruits and vegetables to get started and really round off your first beautiful garden. Or, if you’re already a consistent gardener, enjoy today by planting new or different flowers in your own garden. Give back today by helping out new gardeners with tips, tricks or extra bulbs or seeds you might have. No matter where you are in the gardening process, today is the perfect day to try something new.

Help at a community garden.
If you don’t have the space, time or resources to maintain your own garden, consider helping out at a community garden nearby. Lots of neighborhoods and nonprofit organizations offer and maintain community gardens, whether they include fruits, vegetables or flowers. Check out your neighborhood to see what community gardens are close by, and see how you can get involved today and into the spring season.

Try out a local greenhouse.
Of course, sometimes the weather can still be a little unpredictable in March. If the weather gets too chilly to work with a garden outdoors, try out a local greenhouse for the indoor gardening experience. Most greenhouses stock plants that grow well in the area, and serve as a great way to try out gardening and learn a bit more about plants along the way. See what greenhouses are near you and how you can get involved. Continue to ask questions and shop there frequently if you do start your own garden.

Give a bouquet away.
If you’re not able to plant a flower today or this season, fret not. There are still ways to give back with National Plant a Flower Day by giving a bouquet away. Buy locally-sourced flowers from floral shops in your area and give them away to someone you care about today. Whether it’s your significant other, your mother or someone in need, you can brighten someone’s day by giving them a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

Get involved in conservation efforts.
Finally, the best way to celebrate National Plant a Flower Day is by making sure there are more to come in the future. Help keep the planet safe so future generations can enjoy the flowers we love by getting involved with conservation efforts in your community. Start recycling at home, opt for a reusable water bottle and eat locally-grown foods to help give back to the earth that has given us so many beautiful flowers.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “The earth laughs in flowers.” Today, enjoy National Plant a Flower Day by trying out some of these tips. See how you can get involved today, this month and for years to come by supporting nature’s laughter.

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National Women’s History Month

The month of March is known for many things, like St. Patrick’s Day, spring break and even its unpredictable weather. However, one aspect of March which can often get overlooked is National Women’s History Month. Since 1987, the United States has honored Women’s History Month by recognizing the unique and significant contributions various women have made to society throughout history.

So, how exactly did National Women’s History Month get started, and how can you altruistically celebrate it? Today we dive into the history behind this month and how you can get involved, give back and build a better world by celebrating National Women’s History Month.

The History Behind the Month
One of the most important ways you can give back with National Women’s History Month is by learning more about the history behind the month. The famous month actually originated as just a week. It started out in 1978 as a weeklong celebration organized by the school district of Sonoma, California, recognizing women’s contributions to culture, history and society. Students in the district gave presentations at dozens of school, participated in a “Real Woman” essay contest and even held a parade in downtown Santa Rosa.

Years later, other communities, school districts and organizations around the country started to catch onto the idea of a women’s celebration. Then, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter declared the week of March 8th as National Women’s History Week. The following year, the U.S. Congress continued the decree by passing a resolution that established a national celebration. Six years later in 1987, the National Women’s History Project petitioned Congress to expand the event to the entire month of March. They succeeded, and thus National Women’s History Month was born.

International Women’s Day
Part of the origin behind women’s history week and month began with International Women’s Day. International Women’s Day took place for the first time on March 8, 1911, as a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women. Countries around the world celebrated—and continue to celebrate—the day with demonstrations, educational initiatives and cultural customs. The United Nations itself has sponsored the global event since 1975. The weeklong celebration of Sonoma, California, originated because of International Women’s Day, ultimately contributing to the foundation of National Women’s History Month.

When the U.N. adopted its resolution on the observance of International Women’s Day, they cited the following reasons: “To recognize that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.”

Get Involved with a Women’s Organization
So, how can you live altruistically and celebrate National Women’s History Month? By getting involved with a women’s organization, of course. Take time to recognize the meaningful contributions women have made to society throughout generations. Learn more about female inventors, artists and politicians. Look in your community for women’s organizations you can get involved with, then see how you can volunteer or donate to give back. Support the women in your friend group, family and neighborhood to help recognize women throughout the community, society and history.

This March, celebrate National Women’s History Month by learning more and giving back. See how you can get involved, live altruistically and make a difference in the lives of girls and women around you.