Heartwarming Ways to Give Back This Winter

When winter feels never-ending, it’s a great time to do a mental reset and focus on new things. Craft projects, deep cleaning, and organizing can pass the hours. It’s also an ideal time to help others in need or to contribute to a cause you care about through volunteering.

On top of developing skills and gaining valuable expertise and experience, volunteering helps you think outside yourself. Mayo Clinic notes the benefits of doing so, including improving your physical and mental health, reducing stress, providing a sense of purpose, improving life satisfaction, and boosting self-esteem. At the same time, philanthropy improves the lives of others and contributes to society at large.

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas for giving—and getting—a heartwarming boost through volunteering.

Join a global initiative

Whether it’s volunteering online, in-country, or abroad, organizations such as the United Nations address challenges that transcend boundaries. Spanning everything from project coordination assistance to designing a publication dedicated to improving livelihood and food and nutrition outcomes, there’s a wide array of opportunities to choose from.

Looking for something hands-on? Habitat for Humanity lets you play a role in building communities locally as well as worldwide; lend a hand at a local ReStore; or assist with repair and home preservation services, such as landscaping, painting, repairs, and weatherization.

Help furry or oceanic friends

Portrait of Caged DogIsabel Pavia/Getty Images

The Humane Society of the United States is one of many animal rights organizations seeking volunteers to amplify efforts. That can take many forms, whether it’s serving as a pro bono veterinarian or phone bank or research volunteer, or providing direct care to dogs, cats, and other animals rescued from harm. Some locations even offer after-school programs for kids, allowing them to assist in the care and well-being of animals through hands-on activities, lessons, and interaction.

Of course, that’s only the beginning. You can volunteer at an animal orphanage, rescue group, or shelter, intern with an endangered wildlife organization, or help assist with sea turtle conservation. After you start exploring the options, you’ll find there is a philanthropic role that’s right for you.

Give the gift of life

Organizations such as the American Red Cross seek individuals in search of a new purpose. You can choose to be a blood donor ambassador, which involves engaging and assisting people who wish to give blood; help by transporting donated blood; or assist with its disaster response efforts, for example. Whether you’re a boots-on-the-ground type or an IT whiz, or prefer being behind the scenes, there are many ways to assist those in need.

Hone or develop expertise

Are you fluent in at least one language besides your native tongue? Consider working with an organization like Translators Without Borders, which offers transcription services for crisis responses or medical texts.

Fancy yourself a history buff or museum enthusiast? The Smithsonian Institution’s Transcription Center may be right for you. Become one of nearly 60,000 digital volunteers who transcribe field notes, historic audio recordings, diaries, logbooks, photo albums, manuscripts, ledgers, and biodiversity specimen labels in the name of making historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible.

Help without leaving the house

Volunteer with donation box with clothesbymuratdeniz/Getty Images

Not everyone is comfortable with in-person volunteering at this point, and that’s okay. You can make an impact from your living room. Assemble care kits of shampoo, toothbrushes, lotion, and soap for homeless shelters; become an advocate for racial equity; donate coats, glasses, blankets, and art supplies; or make cards that will bring smiles to seniors’ faces—and cheer up veterans too.

No matter what you decide, volunteerism makes a difference in the lives of those near and far. It’s also a way to practice mindfulness and gratitude, meet new people, and simply have fun. By enriching the lives of others alongside your own, you may open new doors, test out your affinity for new experiences, and gain a sense of accomplishment that will carry you until warm weather and beyond.

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