Can Volunteering Cause Happiness?


The answer from many, many experts is …YES!
As His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama says regarding happiness:

It is this pattern of thought, transforming problems into happiness that has enabled the Tibetan people to maintain their dignity and spirit in the face of great difficulties. Indeed, I have found this advice of great practical benefit in my own life.
(Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama (HHDL), Dec. 31, 2010)

What is so special about volunteering that causes happiness? In my mind, it is a space to immerse myself in the happiness and freedom of just taking care of the person in front of me. That’s it! My simple happy place. Without the interference of profit motives, production quotas, insurance directives, administrators, and paperwork (i.e. EHRs/EMRs), it can be a pure space of possibility. I think that when you remove those energy-zapping constraints, you find the quiet – like a clearing. This clearing of the mind is where we can connect deeply with our fellow human being. In this quiet sacred clearing, both patient and physician can be transformed. When given a space to simply use skills to help others, renewal and rekindling of that deep sense of fulfillment that has such a quiet voice, compared to the barrages of external demands, is allowed and wholly appreciated. I posit that, in this volunteer-altruistic space, we can return to loving our patients, our team, our profession, and most of all, ourselves. As the fog of an overworked and overstressed mind lifts, we find the space for love.

Through my trips to the Himalayas, I was able to reclaim my love of practicing medicine. I only wish I had done something similar earlier in my career. Would it have staved off exhaustion and depression? I don’t know, but I do know that meeting others in the space of altruism and compassion is a gift beyond measure. The community of like-minded and positive people alone was healing. Colleagues, I don’t know where you are in your career, but I do know that love and fulfillment is everything in life. If you are unhappy, on the edge, depressed, frustrated with medicine, or thinking of a career change, I highly recommend finding your heart’s passion. Reclaim the very reasons you went into medicine. Connect with others who are similar caring people. Have an adventure to get some perspective on “regular life”. There are many opportunities, and I am happy to talk to anyone that is interested in finding such an opportunity and needs resources. Take the time. Get perspective. Re-juice. Get your mojo back. Discover your muchness again. You owe it to yourself and to your patients!

His Holiness also says:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Doing what is fulfilling and feeds your soul is practicing compassion. Some of us just take a while to figure that out!

“The more you are motivated by Love, the more fearless and free
your action will be.”

Blessings and Happiness,


2 thoughts on “Can Volunteering Cause Happiness?

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  1. Awesome stuff. It really is that simple – though sometimes it can be difficult to have compassion for ourselves or even others when we are weighed down our responsibilities. It takes committed action to shift it. Though I am always glad when I do!

    1. You said it! I have struggled with this too. One of my daily meditations is bringing loving-kindness to myself and then to others. I physically place my hand on my heart to start the meditation. This reminds/anchors it for me. Practice, practice, practice!

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