Volunteerism: Good For Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Volunteerism: Good For Your Mind, Body, and Soul

Volunteering and serving others is a great way to improve your health – especially mental health. It’s one of the best ways to get a mood boost because it’s free, it’s non-invasive, always available, and can be done alongside other people. A study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that individuals who volunteered reported higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and overall well-being. 

People are often hesitant to volunteer for various reasons. They may not feel like they have time or they may feel like it would take time away from work, which would impact them financially. Or they may feel like they don’t have the right skills to offer. The fact is, it’s easy to come up with excuses not to do something, even if we know it’s good for us. Motivation rarely comes before we engage in an activity; we become motivated to do things once we’ve already started doing them. 

The perceived barriers to volunteering can be easily overcome. There are volunteer opportunities suitable for every person, you just have to find the right fit. You can commit to regular and manageable time slots of volunteering to accommodate your busy schedule, or you can find bigger, one-time volunteer opportunities that fall on days and times when you are free. It doesn’t cost anything to donate your time, so if you schedule volunteer time outside of work hours, you won’t be impacted financially. Consider this an investment in your overall well-being. If you’re not sure what you have to offer, you can find roles that align with your existing skills. You can also take advantage of training and development opportunities provided by the organizations seeking volunteers. Embrace the learning experience and be open to try new things.

Benefits of Volunteering

Build Social Connections

Many volunteer opportunities involve working with others toward a common goal. Meaningful engagement can foster a sense of belonging and community, and create space for genuine connections with like-minded people. 

Volunteering can also help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation. According to a survey by UnitedHealth Group, 78% of people who volunteered in the past year reported that volunteering made them feel less isolated.

Psychological Benefits

Volunteering helps to fight stress, anxiety and depression. Connecting with another person, whether it be a person we’re serving alongside or a person in need, can have profound positive psychological effects. By measuring brain activity and hormones, research shows we experience pleasure when we serve others. 

Physical Health Benefits

Studies show that volunteering improves cardiovascular health, lessens chronic pain, and reduces risk of various diseases. They’ve also shown that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. 

Personal Growth and Development
  1. Develop a more positive outlook on life. A volunteer role can help create a sense of pride and identity, making you feel better about yourself, and in turn have a more positive view of your life. It also can direct your attention outward, helping you be less focused on your own thoughts or problems. Seeing the circumstances of those in need can make you appreciate what you have and what you can offer to those who are less fortunate. 
  2. Acquire new skills and expand knowledge. Volunteering gives you a chance to try out a new field and broaden your horizons while developing skills like communication, problem-solving, public speaking, teamwork, etc. You can build upon the skills and knowledge you already have and use them to not only benefit others, but also to create new opportunities for yourself in the future.
  3. Gain a sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Volunteer activities that involve skill development or leadership roles can boost self-confidence and provide individuals with a sense of achievement. Using your abilities to help others gives a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  4. Increase confidence through challenging experiences. Sometimes volunteer efforts require problem-solving and overcoming obstacles. Navigating your way through successfully completing a task builds confidence in your abilities. 

While volunteering one time will certainly have an impact, committing to regular volunteering will sustain the aforementioned benefits. As we know, a healthy routine and maintaining a schedule are crucial to our success on our mental health journey. That includes incorporating new activities that promote well-being. This is the perfect opportunity to make time and space for volunteering. It is a powerful way to create positive change, not only in the lives of others but also in your own.

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