Rena Salamacha
Rena Salamacha, CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

As 2023 comes to a close and I reflect on what seems to have been a whirlwind of a year, it is clear that our community has much to be grateful for. We have faced many challenges together over the years. Yet, I continue to see resilience, strength and generosity demonstrated by the people of Southern Monterey County at every turn.

As we begin to focus on seasonal generosity with holiday celebrations and gift-giving, it is good to remember that one of the most meaningful gifts we can give at this time of year, and indeed throughout the year, is an act of service to others. Whether volunteering at a local community nonprofit, helping a neighbor in need, or giving to a charitable organization, serving others is powerful. 

Not only does helping others make the world a brighter and happier place; it also provides numerous health benefits so it is good for you, too.

Studies show that those who volunteer live longer than those who don’t. Service to others can lower the stress hormone cortisol and boost serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin — regulating mood and increasing feelings of connection. This results in what is known as “helpers high.” When we offer a helping hand, our blood pressure is lowered, happiness increases, and feelings of depression decrease.

You can offer help to others in your community in many ways this year. Some can be as simple as:

  • Helping a technically challenged family member set up a computer or device.
  • Doing light yardwork for a neighbor.
  • Providing a wholesome meal for someone who is sick.
  • Doing a few chores or some shopping for a friend or relative.
  • Letting the car in front of you onto the highway.
  • Checking in on elderly neighbors to ensure they stay warm and have what they need.
  • Taking a moment to breathe and respond with kindness and compassion during challenging interactions with others. 
  • Offering a cup of coffee and a sympathetic ear to someone going through a difficult time.

Why not consider volunteer opportunities with a local nonprofit group or community organization:

  • Join a school reading or tutoring program.
  • Help clean up or beautify a local park or outdoor area.
  • Sign up to help at your local food bank, shelter, or church.
  • Join a charitable fundraising group.
  • Consider helping local seniors by volunteering with Meals on Wheels or Alliance on Aging.

Research shows that volunteering raises self-confidence, provides a sense of purpose and belonging, and offers opportunities to form new friendships. It also provides:

  • A sense of perspective.
  • A healthy dose of fun.
  • A feeling of renewed optimism and life satisfaction.
  • A positive impact on good health and quality of life.

With all these valuable health and wellness benefits available to us, including a few small acts of kindness for friends and neighbors when planning your gift-giving this year makes a lot of sense. 

From everyone at Mee Memorial, we wish you a healthy, happy and helpful holiday season.

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CEO, Mee Memorial Healthcare System

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