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Altruistic Rest: The Art of Giving with No Return

During my sabbatical, I had the opportunity to experience a rest that only comes with giving selflessly, without expectation of reciprocity. This type of rest restored a part of me that allowed for room to volunteer with veterans in Hawaii, help in community gardens, and serve vulnerable groups in my community. If you're not familiar with the seven types of rest, here is my encouragement to add another to the list: altruistic rest.

I first came across the phrase "altruistic rest" from a social media post describing the different types of rest we need. Altruistic rest is described as any kind of giving, like volunteering, without expecting anything in return. There are even subcategories for the multiple types of altruism.

Research also supports the many benefits associated with giving, such as boosting your mood, promoting healthy social interactions, and reducing stress, loneliness, and depression. One experience that had a profound impact on me, was volunteering with veterans during their archery lessons. I partnered with a veteran who was slightly physically impaired, using a cane to walk. He was also a highly skilled, championed, and competitive shooter. During our time together, he gave pointers to apply to my archery moves and correct my stance. When one of us would shoot the arrows, the other would be encouraged. We chatted about life, archery, and the other activities offered through the Veterans Affairs recreation therapy program. When the time came for me to leave Hawaii, all the veterans I had the pleasure of working with shared their farewells and I began to feel a sense of longing for next time. I felt fulfilled, but I also felt an immense sense of gratitude and love for the experience and the people.

Before my sabbatical, there were times I donated and volunteered because I was passionate about the causes or moved to donate to help a greater cause. My thoughtfulness and caring felt short-lived in those moments. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but to be more present, and grateful, those moments felt more like checking items off a checklist. The problem isn't that I wasn't giving, but that I was not necessarily giving selflessly. I made my checklist more important than the cause I was serving by donating or volunteering.

Altruistic rest also allows time away from work, giving us more time to rest. It gives us a balance between the time we spend at work and other areas of our lives. It presents us with the opportunity to serve our community in thoughtful and generous ways. It allows our brains to center our focus on our acts of service instead of other mind-consuming matters if we allow it. It gives us a sense of fulfillment beyond our work contributions.

Isn't it interesting? There seems to be a greater return on investment with altruistic rest after all.

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