Is the world feeling strange — and you with it? You’re not alone. A recent poll by the American Psychiatric Association shows that anxiety is on the rise in the US. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any American with a pulse. But given that this survey took place in late May — three months after COVID landed but before 2020 began unleashing its full script — you can bet it’s only gotten worse.

Good news: help is on the way, and it’s YOU! A new study from the US Department of Health and Human Services shows that civic engagement (individual or group activities that benefit society, like voting, volunteering, and community service) improves emotional, mental and physical well-being. Not only does civic participation deliver direct benefits to society, but people involved in their communities experience better health outcomes. In short: doing good does you good. 

If there ever was a time to participate, this is it! We’ve compiled a list of five ways that you can pitch in locally that can help you and your community. Giving back never felt so good.

1. Community Service

The Grizzly Creek Fire, one of 69 active wildfires burning this season in the West’s climate-charged conditions, has dealt a blow to Glenwood Canyon and nearby towns. You can help begin the recovery process by supporting Glenwood Canyon Restoration Alliance, a collaboration of local government, non-profit, and business partners created in response to the August 2020 fire. Donating, educating yourself on the recovery effort, and participating in trail restoration (starting spring 2021) are ways that residents can help renew the landscape and the community. 

2. Voting

In Colorado, you can be a part of the democratic process without even leaving home. For the upcoming Presidential election, the State offers options to register online and vote by mail (remember: 2 stamps). You can also drop off your ballot at local voting centers in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties. Here are four ways to increase your voting intelligence: (1) make a plan to vote, (2) vote the whole ballot, (3) vote early (October!), and (4) get friends and family to vote with you. And, it goes without saying, #voteclimate!

3. Volunteering

Distributing food and packing food bags for LiftUp, a Rifle-based nonprofit that provides essential humanitarian assistance to the tri-county area, is a meaningful way to help families in need, a population that has grown since the pandemic landed in our mountains. The local organization offers socially distanced volunteer opportunities at its distribution centers in Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, New Castle, and Rifle and at its Parachute warehouse. By lifting each other up, we all rise.

4. Participating in Group Activities

Getting outside and getting your hands dirty in the company of others is easy in the Roaring Fork Valley. From educational workshops to trail work to wilderness monitoring, opportunities abound to participate in community-powered stewardship. Follow local nonprofits with hands-on opportunities like Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Independence Pass Foundation, Wilderness Workshop/Defiende Nuestra Tierra, and Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. You’ll increase your environmental literacy, improve the local trails and habitats, and enjoy the camaraderie. Check out our Green Events calendar for a few ideas to get started.

5. Taking Action

Did you know that 63% of Pitkin County’s carbon emissions come from buildings? That means that taking steps to cut carbon at home and work is one of the most effective tools for meeting our climate goals. This benefits not only you (think: healthier, cozier, more affordable-to-operate, carbon-free spaces), but also the planet. Learn about CORE’s “Path to Zero” program and get started with an energy assessment to lower your carbon footprint. You’ll be taking action and taking control of your health, on all fronts.

Above: Community Sustainability Manager, Phi Filerman and Accountant Trish Chew from CORE volunteering at the Holy Cross Energy Solar Barn Raising. PC: Mac Scott

Do you have ideas for other ways to improve your health outlook by improving your community? Share them with us on our social channels at: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.