There are many ways someone can participate in creating a better community, such as: supporting local businesses, volunteering, donating to local charities, or joining a group like a church, sports team, or other club. Why does it matter? There is research that indicates that people who actively participate in their communities have a higher sense of well-being. In fact, studies show that selfless acts in general make you a happier person.
So, if you can spend a little less money at a large chain store, why would you spend more for the sake of buying local? I’m living on a budget and I understand this quandary all too well and to be honest, I do go with the less expensive choice sometimes. Regardless, there is an opportunity to put this into perspective. Shopping local accomplishes several things. Your money isn’t just going to the one business because those local shops are more likely to spend that money at other local shops, farms, etc. So you’re not just helping one, you’re helping many. You’re also promoting job growth among entrepreneurs who have a vested interest in hiring more knowledgeable workers who provide better service. There’s also less of an environmental impact from transporting goods and the fact that you’re contributing to the uniqueness of your community.
As far as donating money to charity goes, I’m aware for some people they feel they should probably be on the receiving end rather than the giving end. I would never promote spending outside of your means, but keep in mind charity doesn’t necessarily require cold hard cash. Some businesses may accept your used aluminum cans so they can turn them into a recycler for a small profit. If you were just going to throw them away, why not help the business out instead? Some people regularly donate blood or participate in sponsored walks. There are truly a myriad of ways you can give back.
Another benefit community involvement can bring to your life is a sense of belonging. Joining a group or volunteering somewhere can introduce you to people who care about the same things you do. It allows you to rally behind a common cause and gives you the benefit of learning from the experiences of others. Despite what many introverted people would like to believe (myself included), relationships play a huge role in our perception of happiness. Studies show that people who lack those relationships can become isolated, which not only negatively affects your mental health, but your physical health as well.
My sister Debby is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. She volunteers at our local Humane Society as a dog walker. She’s also heavily involved in their social media outreach. I’ve watched her blossom during her time there which is going on 2 years. I’ve seen the like-minded friends she’s made, the ways she helps improve the quality of life for the dogs at the shelter, and how her spreading awareness has helped dogs get adopted. On top of that, she’s also included her teenage stepson Jack in her service, which has not only solidified his love of dogs, but also exposed him to how enriching volunteer work can be. I’ve witnessed the joy it’s brought her and I’m sure she would agree that she gets back just as much as she gives.