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As people continue to embrace the idea of intentional living and making decisions that benefit others, more of us are looking for places to invest our time and talents.

It feels good to volunteer and help others around you. It not only gives you a larger sense of purpose, it can make you feel more balanced and even happier. Keeping your quest for intentional living at the local level means you’re giving back to your own community and making an impact on the lives of those around you, possibly even in your neighborhood.

Sometimes it can be hard to figure out where to start. There are endless ways you can make an impact in your community. The first steps are finding the best places to invest your time and making the connections that will give you a good start. With so many possibilities in front of you, let’s look at the simplest ways to start down the road of helping others.

Become a Mentor

Agreeing to be someone’s professional mentor is a great way to use all the knowledge and life experience you’ve amassed to help someone else get a leg up in their career. It’s not a huge time commitment. Depending on your schedule, you can set aside an hour a week to meet your colleague or friend at a local coffee shop, chat with them online, or squeeze in a lunchtime walk. It’s a good opportunity to share your strategies for how to get ahead in the workplace, and also your tips for work-life balance and the best way to juggle your schedule.

You can also choose to devote your time to mentoring children who live in your area. Big Brothers and Big Sisters programs are a great example. These programs not only offer workplace partnerships so you can mentor a child by showing them different career paths, you can also volunteer directly for your local Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations by signing up to volunteer a few hours a month. You’re paired with a child from your area and agree to spend time every other week with them. You and your “Little” can play board games, catch a movie or even go for a hike. It’s all about providing one-on-one attention and a listening ear.

Whether you’re heading out for a little mentoring with teens or a co-worker, make sure to have a bag of snacks on hand to make the time more fun. BodyKey™ Whole Grain Tortilla Chips come in single-serving pouches and are perfect to stash in a snack bag. While you’re at it, add in a few bottles of Perfect Empowered Drinking Water®, which is ionized and oxygen-rich.

Volunteer in Your Community

Focusing your intentional living close to home is a win-win for you and your neighbors. By choosing to volunteer in your community, you are making a practical difference in your hometown and you can see first-hand the difference your giving is making in people’s lives. There are likely lots of opportunities to volunteer locally. These include local youth centers, which often need people to donate a few hours of their time after school and on weekends to help kids with homework, organize sports and games, and other events. Homeless shelters are another opportunity. While they are run by trained staff, volunteers are typically needed to help serve meals, sort through donated items, and mentor men, women and families who are trying to get their lives back on track.

If you’re gifted in a trade, consider offering your skills to a low-income person or family who needs your help. Plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling, auto repair and construction are all types of work that can be too expensive for neighbors who are struggling financially. Sometimes they may have the money for the necessary parts, but not the labor. This is a burden you may be skilled enough to lift for them. Often, this kind of giving can be shared by word of mouth, but you can also contact your local churches or senior centers and ask if there are people who might need your help.

Shop Local

Shopping local is an excellent way to make a difference in your own community. Every time you put your money back into a local, independent business – whether it’s a retail store or a restaurant – you are strengthening that small economy, providing jobs for your neighbors and doing your part to improve the environment. National surveys have found that there is a “multiplier effect” when you shop local, meaning for every dollar you spend, it brings as much as $3.50 into your community. Living in a city or small town where you can walk or bike to do your shopping at local businesses cuts down on the number of cars on the road, and the amount of greenhouse gasses being emitted into the air, keeping it cleaner.

Attend Community Meetings

If you want a ground-level view of what’s happening where you live, make time to attend a community meeting in your area. It could mean setting aside an hour or two for a city council meeting, where you’ll find out how your elected officials are allocating your tax dollars, and get an early look at any street work, building or park projects on the horizon. Or you could sit in on the regular meeting of your local school board, or a gathering targeted to a specific upcoming event. Community meetings allow you to familiarize yourself with new people from your neighborhood and develop deeper relationships with those in your community. They also will alert you to many community volunteering opportunities you might be interested in.

Organize a Community Cleanup

If your town doesn’t already have one, volunteer to organize a community cleanup. Offer to work with city officials to create a local event that will tidy up public parks, neighborhood streets and local playgrounds. It’s a good way to bring people together for a shared goal of making their neighborhoods look nicer. And don’t forget to set up a simple after-party to thank all the volunteers. This lets people celebrate their shared accomplishment and make new friends at the same time.

Once you’ve decided giving back is the right way for you to spend your extra time, you’ll be amazed at how much difference you can make in your own community, and how good that will make you feel.