Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. According to HelpGuide.org, volunteering can help you reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose.
Rick Scalf, community outreach coordinator for Advocates for Children, has seen first-hand the positive effect that volunteer activity has on someone engaged in it. “You carry yourself differently,” he says. “You find a purpose that extends beyond yourself. You connect with your community in a way you might otherwise not in your daily life.”
Here are six ways helping others can help you too:
- Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person.
- It can help combat depression. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against depression.
- Giving back feels good. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
- Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
- Selfless acts provide a sense of purpose. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning and direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.
- Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills.
The act of giving back doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of the busy day. Volunteering, even in simple ways, can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.