By Joanna Mechlinksi

Many of us enjoy giving back to the world around us. Countless studies have shown there are numerous benefits, from increased self-worth to making new friendships, for those who volunteer.

But what about those of us who live with chronic illness or disability? Many are unable to hold regular jobs due to pain and other factors, let alone outside commitments.

Luckily, there are lots of opportunities out there which can work around individual needs.

  1. Share your talent. Are you a strong writer? Many nonprofits desperately need help with media releases, writing grants, even thank-you letters to donors. Is web design more your thing? Maybe you have a terrific telephone voice and great people skills. If you’re good at knitting or crocheting, you can make blankets for children in foster care or shelters, caps for cancer patients and more. Whatever your special skill, chances are there’s an organization out there that would love to have it. And thanks to today’s technology, it’s possible to do it all from home. If you have trouble connecting with the right group, try using a site like or
  2. Start a collection of items to donate. Many organizations rely upon donations to keep operating. These aren’t just monetary, but also actual items. For example, animal shelters always need kibble, gently used towels and blankets; homeless shelters always need toiletries and things like socks and underwear, which most people don’t think of. There are groups such as the Lions Club who collect usable eyeglasses for those who can’t afford them. Many organizations, such as homeless shelters and senior centers, are also thrilled to receive used books. Even if you’re housebound, you can still coordinate a drive via phone and social media, and have someone else drive the items over when you’re through collecting.
  3. Brighten someone’s day with mail. In this world of social media, a handwritten card or letter sent via the postal service is a rarity. Everyone enjoys a bit of special attention, but especially soldiers stationed overseas, senior citizens without any family or friends, and people hospitalized for long stretches.
  4. Contact legislature. There are many important issues in society which desperately need to be backed by new or adapted laws. For example, many communities are beginning to institute animal abuse registries, which track offenders. There has been a push for a national registry, but nothing definite has yet happened. Find a cause you believe in and reach out to lawmakers, urging them to take action.
  5. Make the most of your online time. There are a wide variety of ways you can easily make a difference. You can visit click-to-give sites such as or fun quiz games like, or donate a portion of your online purchases to the charity of your choice via sites like AmazonSmile or You can even help by using a search engine that donates to charity, such as or Even if you aren’t able to spend a lot of time on the internet, it all adds up.

Of course, these ideas are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Once you start thinking, the possibilities are truly endless. We’re all capable of making a difference in the world, regardless of our circumstances or obstacles.

Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.

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Authored by: Joanna Mechlinski

Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report. You can follow her on twitter @castlesburning.

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I want you chronic pain people out there. I’m now on cbd oil with hemp. It has helped tremendously with my anxiety pain depression but not with my diabetes. It has little if any thc in it but medical marijuana does help with sugar control. I’m eating less, taking less meds for pain but can’t deal with going so far down on my meds that I go into withdrawal. I also am eating more natural,juicing and I just wish medical marijuana was legal in my state bc I would do anything to get off the strong opiates I’m on.

Jean Price

There’s an old saying that …if you’re feeling bad, just do something for someone else, and you’ll feel better! The truth is this can be a saving grace for those of us with pain who tend to feel less useful and less of a participant in life!! It doesn’t even take that much effort…and what effort it does take is often worth any extra pain! Both as a distraction therapy…and for the sense of accomplishment it can give us during a time we feel like we accomplish very little!

The suggestions in this article are great, and there’s a endless list of things we can do, even WITH our pain! Like making a phone call to old friend you’ve been out of touch with, sharing a baked goodie with a neighbor, giving someone on one of the many pain sites an extra word of encouragement, starting a new friendship on line, even just complimenting the employee who helps you with making a phone payment, or saying something to a fussy child to distract them from crying in line at the grocery store can help that mom who is trying to unload her groceries! So many little act of kindness can help us feel good about ourselves and help others, too….besides the many opportunities to volunteer.

Hospice always needs volunteers to help patients write letters, run a brief errand, make a phone call to a patient to help brighten their day…even some hospitals need people to rock babies and comfort sick children. So there are lots of LEVELS to be involved, and of offering help! Each effort is a chance to get outside of our own pain and help someone else! That’s always a healing and therapeutic thing to do for anyone! And especially for us whose lives have started to shrink because of pain and the losses we’ve faced!

We human animals seem to NEED a sense of community to thrive, and what better way to have this…and to help ourselves and others, too…than to reach out just a little and give what we can of ourselves, our time, and our gifts! It’s good pain therapy too, since it can get our endorphins revved up AND distract us from our own situation and our own pain! And it’s free, too!


Thank you Joanna, for the reminder to continue looking for new ways to find purpose in our painful lives. When I lived in CT. I gave my best shot at volunteering outside the home, to have purpose. I answered phones and stuffed envelopes for the Red Cross, helped with paperwork at flu shot clinics, did ‘Patient sitting’ in folks homes for a local visiting nurse assoc. BUT… I failed at all. Due to the repercussions of my 4 spine surgeries I am unable to sit or stand for any length of time. I need to keep moving or be in bed. So, while it was great for my head, it hurt my body over and over and I had to give it up.
Now,I’m giving it a shot at supporting others in Chronic Pain from home and I facilitate a local Pain support group meeting once a month. At least at my meeting I can lie down or get up and move around with understanding from others.
I too encourage others to find purpose..its not easy at all for us, especially those of us who live alone in pain, but it is a great part of living healthy, as best we can.

Joanna M

@ Sue Donas -

Mark Ibsen MD

Thank goodness for your article and suggestions

We are designed to thrive

You ideas will help many do that.

Please see the work of Dr David Hanscom,
And keep digging
Being curious

cindy deim

I think one thing all of us with chronic pain can do is contact our legislature about the war on chronic pain. The more they hear from us the better we will all be in the long run. 🙂

Debra gordon

Joanna great article! Soo very true! There’s always a way to help😊! And helping others helps us.. it’s medicine in itself😊.

Sue Donas

I would love to speak w you about a project I’m working on relating to these ideas exactly- how can we talk?

Sue Donas


I had osteoporosis diagnosis at the age of 30 years old when I was advised not to take steroids by my doctor as he had read evidence that steroids given to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain contributed to this affliction. At the age of 51, I was diagnosed with lymphoma cancer in my stomach which resulted with radiology treatment that also added steroids due to severe burns and blisters which covered my stomach area and back during treatment. Three months after treatment I was diagnosed with a hiatal hernia and marks from acid reflux and a lot of scars left from radiation.
Eleven years later, again, a diagnosis of lymphoma …this time in my right lower lobe. This time the treatment included surgery to remove the right lower lobe. Since I was a teacher, I was off anyway during Christmas, so I had the surgery on Christmas Day and had two weeks off for that holiday pay and since I had accumulated 20 days of paid leave, I didn’t have any time of lost pay and as a single mother with one child still at home and two granddaughters by my oldest daughter who was also a single parent, that was a life saving actuality for my family and me. As soon as I was able, I started chemotherapeutic and radiation treatments and was able to work until summer vacation with the help of my fellow teachers and the understanding of my principal, whose wife had died from breast cancer.
Three months after treatment I developed serious inflammation of my lungs due to the radiation ((osteoporosis seen on full body x-ray along with several broken ribs in healing mode, probably due to back surgery) also bulging/herniated disc in middle and lower back. Hospitalized for two whole weeks! Lots of trauma and pain.
In conclusion, I can only say that none of this incredible journey through cancer treatment would be possible for me now with this absolutely inept and totally corrupt man who has somehow gotten himself elected and the Rotted Republicans in charge collusion !
I would now be a statistic, if anyone is counting people who would loose treatment or their lives in the past 8 years of President Obama’s tenure as president vs Trump are for the rich only.