A Resolution

At the beginning of each year we make our resolutions with the desire to somehow do better, be better, and become the person we have always wanted to be. But when the confetti is vacuumed away and we all leave the party, even the best of intentions tend to fade away as regular life returns. Eventually, that new diet we stuck to so vigilantly in January seems less appealing come February, and we beat ourselves up for not sticking to our resolutions.

So for this New Year, why not try something truly new? Instead of worrying about how to improve yourself, your career, or your love life, consider focusing all of your renewed energy outward by finding a volunteer opportunity that calls to you. Not only will you be contributing to a good cause, but your actions may lead you to the positive changes you desired after all—no guilt necessary! As they say, what goes around comes around; studies show that people who regularly volunteer lead happier and healthier lives. Not only do their insides glow with the satisfaction of giving back but volunteers also feel more connected to their community, which wards off depression. Did we mention that people who volunteer regularly also have a longer life spans? No wonderBetty White looks so good—she has been volunteering for most of her life,beginning with American Women’s Volunteer Service during WWII and continuing to devote her time in the present day to animal rights organizations.

With all the bad news in the media these days, why not contribute some time to cultivating positivity? And with so many different causes out there, you are sure to find something that brings you true joy to assist with. To get you startewe have listed a variety of common volunteer opportunities to help you take the first leap and start your year doing good for others and yourself.

1. Help children reach their dreams.

Being a kid in today’s world can be a scary thing, especially for those facing personal challenges at home or in school. By becoming a Big Sister, you can provide the one-on-one mentorship that a child desperately needs to create healthy social relationships and feel cared about.

Think you would make a tutor? There are many nonprofit programs who pair tutors up with students who have fallen behind in school. Find one in your region and help students have the chance to continue education to whatever level they wish.

2. Brighten the day of those who need it most.

Volunteering in a hospital provides patients with the support they need to stay positive and get healthy while assisting staff with smaller tasks allows them to focus on their patients more fully. You can also give back to those who have served our country at the veteran’s hospitals that are always looking for volunteers.

3. Preserve the earth’s beauty for other generations to enjoy.

If you can see yourself at Reese Witherspoon’s side in Wild then volunteering for a park service or national environmental organization may be best for you. Get dirty, feel alive, and do some good for Mother Nature. Does a particular aspect of nature call to you? You can find the perfect fit for your area of interest and browse current openings in your area by visiting www.volunteer.gov.

4. Make a one-time donation to those truly in need.

Not everyone is at a time in their lives where they are able to commit to a volunteer position, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t still make an impact. Do your spring cleaning a little early and clear out your closet this January. Not only will you have more room for any holiday gifts you received, but you will also be helping those in need. Goodwill is an option, as most states have convenient drop-off locations, but you could also consider organizations that provide their customers with clothes free of charge. Have some professional duds lying around that you haven’t needed at the office for a while? There are many nonprofits just a google search away that provide men and women with the business attire they need to land a job. Battered women’s shelters are also a great place to call up to see if they donations since many women do not have a chance to bring their possessions along with them to the shelter.

Looking to pull a T. Swift and swap those long tresses for a sassy bob in 2015? Consider donating your locks to those who have lost their hair due to cancer treatment or other diseases. Locks of Love creates hairpieces for children while Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program helps women keep their confidence while battling cancer.  It only takes 8-10 inches of hair to change someone else’s life.

Of course, there are endless other ways to volunteer for your community. Whether it is volunteering at a homeless shelter or fostering shelter animals you have the power to donate the most valuable things of all—your time and compassion. Make your 2015 count by changing your community (and yourself!) for the better. Visit idealist.org to find an opportunity near you.

Happy New Year!