Thursday, 18 May 2017 23:26

Get involved. It’s good for your health!

||| ||| |||

by Jade Sarver

Did you know that people with more social ties have been found to live longer, to have better health and to be less depressed? It’s true! Studies have shown that people who feel like their lives have meaning and purpose feel happier, which lowers their heart rate, stress level, and concentration of plasma associated with heart disease. Humans by nature are social animals. Research shows that having a strong network of support or strong community bonds fosters both emotional and physical health. In a study of adults over the age of 50, researchers found that individuals who participated in social or community activities were more likely to report good or very good health.

Being engaged in the community not only strengthens the community, it benefits the individual who is involved. Perhaps the biggest benefit you might feel from volunteering is satisfaction – a sense of accomplishment through incorporating service into your life and making a difference in your community. Everyone has talents and skills. Being involved allows you to use your skills and to further develop the skills you have. You may also find that you develop self-confidence from feeling needed and valued in your community.

It is easy to feel disconnected because it is hard to find time to get involved. Many of us juggle work, school, kids, and activity after activity. But when you find time, the psychological benefits alone are worthwhile reasons to serve. You may end up making friends, gaining professional development through awards, job and education certifications, and networking with influential people.

Through service, you can add to the quality and health of your life. The research indicates that volunteers enjoy better health, make new friendships, stay active and involved in the community, and learn new skills. If you don’t believe the science, listen to Gandhi who said, “You may never know what results come of your actions, but if you do nothing, there will be no results.”

So what does this mean for you? Here are a few ways you can take advantage of of what’s happening in your neighborhood!

Participate in your Community Council

The easiest way to get informed about what is going on in your community is by attending your monthly community council meeting. These organizations provide advice to city officials and are directly engaged with identifying community priorities and working on problem solving. Getting involved with your council is one of the best ways to make a difference and advocate for important local issues. And, you get to know your neighbors along the way. Learn more at www.slcgov.com/commcouncils.

Start or Join a Neighborhood Watch

A Neighborhood Watch is a typically group of people living in the same area who want to make their neighborhood safer by working together and in conjunction with local law enforcement to reduce crime and improve their quality of life. Joining your Neighborhood Watch will help deter criminal activity, create a greater sense of security and build bonds with your neighbors. When people look out for one another, they stimulate neighborhood awareness and promote self-care. Learn more at www.slcpd.com/community-engagement/neighborhoodwatch.

Boards and Commissions

Have you thought about joining a Board or Commission? Salt Lake City desperately needs west side residents to participate in city boards such as the Planning Commission, the Business Advisory Board or the Transportation Advisory Board. We need to be represented within the city because Salt Lake City government relies heavily on citizen participation and particularly on those who volunteer their time to serve on boards and commissions. These boards are a wonderful way to use your skills to make improvements in your neighborhood. These bodies bring excellence and experience together to aid in the creation and implementation of public policy. Learn more at www.slcgov.com/ced/bc.

Participate in Open City Hall

Open City Hall is an online forum for civic engagement. You can read what others are saying about important Salt Lake City topics, then post your own statement. City officials read the statements and incorporate them into their decision process. Learn more at www.slcgov.com/opencityhall.

Things to Consider

When you’re asking yourself, “How can I get involved,” consider these questions: Do you have a passion? How much time can you give? What skills do you bring? For example, are your skills and interests more administrative and managerial? Would you want to help run an organization? Where and how do you want to serve? Do you want to help your community, help yourself and make a difference in the lives of someone in need?

What are you waiting for? Get involved in your community. It may be a whole new adventure! And you may just get healthier along the way.

Jade Sarver is the Treasurer of the Fairpark Community Council and founder of Restore North Temple, a citizen-led group focused on supporting the restoration of a Grand Boulevard on North Temple by reducing crime, increasing economic development and improving the perception of the area. To learn more, visit their Facebook page.

 

Five Tips for Becoming More Civically Engaged:

  1. Attend your community council meeting and volunteer to help. Follow their Facebook pages.
  2. Know who your county, city, state and federal representatives are. Join their email lists.
  3. Meet your neighbors. Start a phone tree. Join or start a Neighborhood Watch.
  4. VOTE! Make your voice heard not just in the big elections, but in local elections too.
  5. Apply to join a commission or board. We need west side representation on all city, county and state boards.