There’s no doubt it feels good to do good! When we donate our time, talent, and treasure to others, the core intention is and always should be to make a difference in the lives of another individual or group of people who are less fortunate than us. However, oftentimes you’ll find that volunteering carries some intrinsic rewards we can benefit from as well. As if you needed another reason to give back, here are some of those potential benefits:
In many cases, volunteering opportunities will not only get you out of your home but also spice up your normal routine. If your everyday routine has been feeling a bit repetitive, volunteering can give you the opportunity to interact with lifestyles outside your own and positively impact your sense of purpose as you give back. Understanding the challenges faced by those less fortunate than you may also provide some perspective on our own struggles while making us feel connected to a larger community outside our immediate friends and family. In this way, adding volunteerism to our life can reduce episodes of loneliness, anxiety, and depression.
Volunteering gives you a designated opportunity to escape the stressors of your own life, and potentially even gain some alternative perspective on those stress points. Shifting your focus can really put your problems in perspective and allow you to temporarily forget your worries. Additionally, volunteering activities that include physical activity are more likely to help us regulate stress as well. An indicator of stress is high blood pressure, which is connected to diseases like stroke or heart disease--the leading cause of death in the U.S. Research by Carnegie Mellon University found that, especially in older adults, volunteering can help decrease your risk of high blood pressure by 40 percent.
Most volunteer activities will present you with the opportunity to interact with other people--including fellow volunteers and perhaps the people who are the recipients of your volunteer work. Due to this, volunteering can expose us to new people with similar values and interests. This results in low-pressure opportunities to socialize among people who we naturally have something in common with through meaningful volunteering experiences. It is these kinds of social connections that can really cultivate a greater support system and sense of community in our lives, built on a foundation of shared values.
The volunteer activities we participate in have the potential to expose us to skills or fields of work we otherwise might be unfamiliar with. For example, mentally stimulating volunteer opportunities like tutoring or reading to kids can improve our memory and thinking skills. Similarly, we may find during our volunteering that we really enjoy a field of work we’d never considered before -- whether it’s in the healthcare industry or in construction. Regardless of the kind of volunteering you are doing, your sense of accountability will improve greatly as you commit to giving back. This alone is a life skill you will apply throughout personal and professional experiences.
It can be easy to lose a sense of personal purpose in our everyday lives and routines. However, when we step outside of that routine and into a situation where we are needed or feel appreciated by those we are serving, it’s likely to result in improved self-confidence. Volunteering provides a reliable source of feelings of fulfillment and accomplishment, which we may struggle to find elsewhere in our lives. As we work to improve the lives of others, our dedication often makes us feel more valuable personally.
Altogether, the combined benefits of volunteering have the ability to positively influence your life and improve your longevity. Any of the following symptoms can have a detrimental impact on your health, including high levels of stress, blood pressure, depression, loneliness, anxiety… By reducing just one of these ailments through volunteering, you may greatly improve your overall health and wellness.
Now, it’s worth noting that when you know you’re receiving these benefits, or approach volunteering with an underlying selfish goal, you’re less likely to experience these effects on your own life. Instead, it’s important that by volunteering, you are committing to serve others before yourself always! We recommend finding a cause or charity that is important to you and seeing how you can make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. Having this mindset will ensure that you serve out of a sincerely selfless place, to the maximum benefit of others, with a few benefits for you to carry with you as well.