How powerful is volunteering for youths today? It can help curb college age youth from alcohol abuse for starters!
The key here for parents or even kids considering different colleges is that age old quote, “Birds of a Feather Flock Together”! The data to support the idea that kids who attend a college where volunteering is more of a culture resulting in a devalued culture for alcohol abuse comes from Timothy D. Wilson, author of the 2011book, Redirect, The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change.
In this book the Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia reflects on story-editing as a method for individual improvements for youth trying to avoid negative influences. He derived story-editing from Kurt Lewin, one of the initial founders of social psychology in the 1930s and 1940s.
Story-editing is, “A set of techniques designed to redirect people’s narratives about themselves and the social world in a way that leads to lasting changes in behavior”. Story-editing has been used to tackle tough social issues such as making people happier, solving adolescent behavior problems, and even reducing the racial achievement gap in schools.
Story-editing helped many youth in some studies, but the author noted that regarding youth initiatives effectiveness, “We also saw that an effective way of changing their self-views, making them feel more engaged and connected to their communities, is to get them to do community service”.
Volunteering is so powerful that it can be a useful tool in promoting positive attributes in the lives of our youth even in the face of negative peer pressure. The idea is that when people use a new behavior such as volunteering it may trigger a new revision in their self-views. The cycle tends to reinforce itself as the individual resets their internal dialog to one of a more positive nature, which in turn tends to promote continued volunteering and other positive attributes in their lives.
Story-editing is coupled with several other techniques, but particularly the “do good, be good” strategy where people are encouraged to create new interpretations by first changing their behavior, according to the author. He also states this is not a cure all for societies’ problems. It is one tool in the tool box, so to speak.
The take away from this information is how powerful volunteering is to society as a whole for positive changes to not only individuals but to groups.
The point here is that in many other posts I have relayed information on how much volunteering has helped individuals and the potential for many good things, even a longer life when they join a group. Here I am producing the evidence from the studies by some scientists that social connections and volunteering have more far reaching effects than even those really good benefits that I have cited in past posts.
In effect you are leveraging your positive impact for the larger good of society.
Two authors, Nicholas A. Christakis MD PhD and James H. Fowler, PhD wrote the book, Connected, The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. To sum up how powerful social networks are they cited the Framingham Heart Study which suggested, “That social contacts a thousand mile from each other can influence each other’s weight”.
That is some very powerful influence over a large distance. This makes it possible that an empowered volunteer could over time as members are located for the group find him or herself making a huge influence on the people you help. Their networks will enlarge, and those positive aspects the volunteer group promotes will be transferred to both the new members as reinforcement as well as the volunteer’s previous network where it may be new information. Some of the new volunteer’s network members might be out of state and perhaps the influence will be long range, just as the authors of Connected found for the obesity transfer from a thousand miles.
Helping others should be enough reward for becoming an empowered volunteer. But the evidence shows that you will not only make yourself better off in many ways, the members who join will be better off and by the leverage of networking so will the people in the new members networks potentially.
That is something very special when you can do just a little work as an empowered volunteer and potentially have so large a positive impact on so many other people you don’t even know!