Today our country honors the memory of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Americans are urged to spend the day serving others. Wait, this is a health column, right? What does service to others or Martin Luther King have to do with health? Well, here are a few interesting facts for you to consider.
Research shows that doing good for others improves your own physical and mental health. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. First and foremost, doing good deeds gives us a sense of euphoria, which releases endorphins, our bodies’ natural painkillers. People often report a decrease in awareness of physical pain after doing something nice for someone else.
Helping others also provides social contact and can reduce stress-related feelings such as isolation, depression, and hostility, which can lead to ulcers and overeating. Facts aside, doesn’t it just make your day when you know you’ve done something nice for someone else? It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Let the weary woman with the cranky baby go in front of you in the grocery line. Hold the door at the post office for the guy with his arms full of packages. Grab something on a high shelf for someone who can’t reach.
But if you’d like to do more, here is a list of ways you can help your fellow man on this day, and throughout the year.
- Donate blood. The American Red Cross donor center is located at 5380 Franklin Rd., in Boise. This is a quick, effective way to give back to your community, as there is a daily need for blood.
- Help feed malnourished children. The United Way of Treasure Valley needs volunteers to help do a mobile pack today, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsored by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC), the event takes place today at Bishop Kelly High School, 7009 Franklin Rd., Boise. For more information, click on this link.
- Plant a garden or plan a party. The Idaho Botanical Garden is looking for volunteers for a number of services. You can help stage events, such as the Spring Garden Tour, or Summer Garden Party Fundraiser, host tours, or help maintain the garden. The Idaho Botanical Garden is located at 2355 Old Penitentiary Rd., Boise. For more information, click on this link.
- Read a book. Reach Out and Read is a program housed in hospitals and other health centers designed to promote early literacy by giving new books to children. You can help organize a book drive, or be a volunteer reader. For more information and a list of locations, click on this link.
- Help homeless families get a fresh start. CATCH needs help obtaining furniture and household supplies for previously homeless families starting out in new homes. For more information, click on this link.
This is the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King Day. The Baptist preacher was a great orator who cared about equality and justice for all, regardless of race, or economic status. In fact, one of Dr. King’s most famous quotes states, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” He delivered these words on March 25, 1966, at the National Convention for the Medical Committee for Human Rights, held in Chicago, but one could make the argument that these words echo the sentiment held by many in this country today. And who could ever forget his incredible “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 and has inspired Americans for generations. Click on this link to hear it. Like Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King was a champion of the health and well-being of all people. Why not do something good for others, and yourself, today by donating some of your time?
Talk it up:
How are you honoring Dr. King today?
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