Today I did something I have never done before as a real-life working adult. I volunteered for a charity. There are a couple of reasons why I’ve never really volunteered before – when I was a teenager I held down three part-time jobs while studying for my A-Levels and any spare time I had to work, I wanted to be earning money for it or spending the money I had earned. Also, I’ve not really ever identified a charity I really wanted to work with on a local level and that I felt I could valuably contribute to.
There are also a couple of reasons why I finally after 27 years of life decided to try my hand at volunteering today. The catalyst: I’m doing a human-centred design course and this particular charity fits the topic of our scenario, so I thought I’d be able to immerse myself in the experience for some first-hand primary research. But also, I think I – as with many other people – am finding on my journey deeper into the world of primal living that I’m seeking out more meaningful ways to spend my time.
For example, my evening routine after I get home from work has changed significantly in the last few months. It used to involve coming home, flopping on the sofa and switching on the TV, waiting until I can be bothered to cook something, which is then eaten on said sofa in front of the TV. Then more TV. Then bed to try and sleep. Now, I get home from work and start cooking dinner straight away, we eat early-ish and then go out and walk the dog – or we walk the dog first. It’s not always the same. Instead of watching TV, we eat at the table and after dinner we sit and talk about our day, the news, whatever catches our fancy. If we do finally move into the living room, we rarely watch TV, but read instead. And we communicate with each other.
Whereas before, we saw time out of work as being so precious and so short that we wanted to spend it not doing anything as much as possible – now, we still see that time as precious, but so much so that it should be used to have as much fun as we can! We get outside, we read, we talk. And it feels much more meaningful and just more full in general.
And what more meaningful way of spending your time than volunteering for a local charity. So, a little more about FoodCycle. FoodCycle has two main aims: to reduce food waste and to reduce food poverty through training volunteers and building communities. Basically, they get supermarkets to donate the food they would have thrown away anyway. Then they set up hubs with partners in the community who can lend them a kitchen. Then they use the food to cook a three course meal for anyone who needs a free meal. Everyone eats together on big tables and the experience seems to be as much about the social community building as it is about the food.
This idea of coming together as a community to share a meal is something we seem to be losing in the western ‘civilised’ world as time goes on. Our population is growing and we are more surrounded by people than we ever have been before – yet people feel lonelier, more individualistic, and selfish about their time than ever before… especially those of us in big cities.
I remember when I was a student, we used to have a dinner party on an almost weekly basis and we certainly never went a week without being invited around for dinner at someone else’s house. And not because of the need to entertain and show off – we’d throw pot luck dinners and we’d all eat together at someone’s house because we wanted the social interaction. We wanted to eat together – to feel like one big family. And doing so feels quite primal. It feels innate and as though you’re part of a community or tribe.
When you stop being a student and all your friends move away… and maybe you move to a new town as well… it gets much harder to have a pot luck dinner every week. But there’s more to it than that. When you work 40 hours a week or more, it’s hard to motivate yourself to cook dinner for a bunch of friends on a Friday evening… and that seeps into everything. It’s also harder to find time to do fun things, to volunteer, even to get enough sleep!
Imagine if we all worked 20 hours a week maximum, how much of an effect it would have on society more widely. This may be an idealistic view, but I’d like to think if I was working half the hours I do now, I would volunteer more. I would put more effort into growing my own food. I would look after the neighbour’s kids if they wanted to go out for the night. I’d throw more dinner parties and get involved in local politics.
OK, maybe I wouldn’t do all of these things, but I’d do some of them. And imagine that on a large scale! Maybe we wouldn’t have as much money and things as we do now. But maybe we’d have better relationships with friends, family, and partners. And maybe we’d all just be a little bit happier living more meaningful lives, being able to take time to see the difference we can and do make in the world.
Part of the Autoimmune Protocol is about relieving stress. I think doing good things with your spare time like volunteering and socialising give you some of the warm and fuzzy feelings that probably go hand in hand with decreased stress. Something about knowing you’ve done a good deed for the day, I guess.
How do you spend your time meaningfully? Do you volunteer, take time to help out friends and neighbours? How does it make you feel?
Breakfast: smoked salmon with leftover mango salsa
Lunch: Roast beef salad with leftover mango salsa
Dinner: Cinnamon beef stew with butternut squash and mushrooms – highly recommended. Yummy.
Snacks: 2x pears, 1 punnet of blueberries. 4x fruit leather.
Pain level (out of 10)
Started off high-ish at about 3, but went down very early today – before 8am. Stayed away all day apart from a couple of twinges (around a 1) in the afternoon at about 5pm and 7.30pm.