Research has found that people who live the longest and are the happiest have a habit in common – volunteering.

New Year’s resolutions are often focused on you, and that’s okay. We all need to plan to live a better life.

However, we’ve been inspired by one of the common habits of people living in Blue Zones, parts of the world where people live the longest, are happiest and have a high quality of life.

What is that habit, you ask?

It’s volunteering.

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Research has found that people who volunteer in their community tend to lose weight, have lower rates of heart disease, and report higher levels of happiness.

This is all great to know, but how do you start spreading goodness through volunteer work? The number of charities or organisations that could benefit from your time can seem overwhelming, so here are some tips on how to get started:

Consider your motivations

Think about what’s motivating you to help others. Is it a real desire to bring about change? Is it to make you feel more positive about the country or your life? Is it guilt? Are you lonely or bored?

None of these should stop you getting involved, but knowing where the motivation is coming from can help you see the best way forward and can influence the particular way in which you become involved.

What are you passionate about? 

You’re far more likely to persist in doing good if it’s something you’re passionate about. Working with an organisation for the long haul is one of the best ways to pass on the most benefit.

Think about where your skills or interests lie. Are you mad about animals? Passionate about reading or literacy? Professionally skilled in counselling or training? Find an organisation that fits these passions or interests.

Related: 5 Ways to boost your happiness in 2018

Make it convenient

Life is busy and you’ll be far more likely to be consistent if you set up a time or place that fits in with your schedule.

If you work full-time, you could speak to your HR department and try and get time off during work hours, when you can give your time in the name of the company, along with your colleagues.

Many companies have CSI budgets they have to spend each year, so you could try and channel some of this budget into a volunteer project you’re passionate about.

Make small contributions where you can

It doesn’t have to be a weekly commitment: you can start small.

Clear out your unused clothes or your children’s toys and donate them, and then offer to do the same with any excess things belonging to friends or family.

Make a small monetary contribution to a children’s home (if you can afford it), knowing that even though it’s small, it will make a difference in someone’s life.

Look out for ways to give in the supermarket while you’re shopping, whether it’s putting something into a trolley of groceries being collected for a shelter, or ideas like Clover Krush’s #KrushGoodness campaign whereby when you choose any Krush product, you play a part in ensuring that 10 000 scholars in communities across South Africa receive a brand new pair of school shoes to better equip them for the school year ahead.

Not only will doing good start to improve your small corner of the world, it will also have mental and physical health benefits for yourself – so let’s get started!

Source: bluezones.com.

Related: How to overcome bad habits

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.