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Is there a happiness pill?

By Diane Gunsolley, chaplain, Aberdeen Village

[caption id="attachment_6526" align="alignleft" width="221"]Volunteer Mary Jo Dillon Volunteer Mary Jo Dillon[/caption]

If there is one thing that most of us want, it is to feel better emotionally. We want to be happy.

If I told you there was a new medicine on the market that could make you happy, would you be interested? What if I told you it was legal and had no harmful side effects? What if I added that it doesn’t cost a dime?

I’m guessing that I have your attention now. Unfortunately, a miracle medicine for happiness does not exist. However, research has shown that serving as a volunteer does increase happiness and well-being.

In fact, the more people volunteer, the happier they are, according to “Simple Changes, Big Rewards: A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living,” published by Harvard Health Publications.

“Compared with people who never volunteered, the odds of being ‘very happy’ rose 7 percent among those who volunteered monthly and 12 percent for people who volunteered every two to four weeks. Among weekly volunteers, 16 percent felt very happy—a hike in happiness comparable to having an income of $75,000 to $100,000 versus $20,000,” according to the report.

Why not experience a 16 percent increase in happiness, and volunteer weekly? Tell me your interests, and I will try to connect you with an activity at Aberdeen Village. Or you can help me start a new activity for residents to enjoy.

“Caring for our own” is a big part of life at Aberdeen Village. In each neighborhood, people reach out to help each other. Sometimes, this means visiting the person who lives next door. Other times, it means delivering crossword puzzles to assisted living residents, dropping off church bulletins for health care residents or delivering packages to independent living residents.

I asked a few of our volunteers how they got started and why they continue to volunteer.

Evelyn Bergman told me she attended an all-floor meeting for residents shortly after moving to Aberdeen Village four years ago. In the meeting, she learned that a volunteer was needed to water house plants.

Evelyn’s experience was with the outdoor variety of plants, but she was willing to learn a new skill. She bought an instructional book and took on the challenge. Today, Evelyn finds it rewarding to see thriving plants beautifying the space.

Mary Jo Dillon loves people. After she moved to Aberdeen Village 16 years ago, she began to deliver mail to residents in our health care neighborhood. At the time, she used an electric wheelchair and was able to manage alone. Today, she gets help from her sister and other residents, but she still enjoys her volunteer activities. Through her faithful service, Mary Jo has made many friends in each neighborhood at Aberdeen Village.

For 10 years of her childhood, Mary Lou Niebling took piano lessons. Then the busyness of young adult life prompted her to put piano playing on the back burner, and there it remained—until she moved into Aberdeen Village.

Mary Lou rekindled her passion. She invested in repairs for her piano, began taking lessons again and volunteered to play for Vespers services. She knew volunteering would help her be more disciplined with practicing. Today, Mary Lou still plays for Vespers, and also for memorial services and all-Aberdeen hymn sings. She blesses us with her gift of music.

[caption id="attachment_6527" align="alignleft" width="221"] Volunteer Joan Varner[/caption]

Joan Varner has volunteered in assisted living for 8 to 10 years. She leads an exercise class three mornings a week. Joan says that sometimes she has to really push herself to get to class, but it’s always worth it when she sees her friends faces.

Joan says she has made many good friends over the years by volunteering, and she knows the consistent exercise has been good for her, too.

Are you interested in a happiness lift?

If you enjoy playing cards or board games, reading, exercising, engaging in crafts or planning parties, we want to hear from you. Even if your hobby is enjoying a cup of coffee with a neighbor, you can help. If you would like to volunteer at Aberdeen Village, join our Ambassadors Group. The group addresses the needs of residents at ever stage of their life journey at Aberdeen Village.

Contact Marketing Director Chrissie Ammann at cammann@pmma.org or Chaplain Diane Gunsolley at dgunsolley@pmma.org for more information. Discover how you can help others, and improve your health and happiness in the process.

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