by Melissa Chichester
These feel-good feelings range from the joy of being part of a group or a mood boost knowing that you were able to provide a need to someone else. Most people begin volunteering because it is an opportunity to get involved in a specific cause. Volunteering to help others can have a big impact on the communities that we live in and on the people around us; however, the act of volunteering also plays a role in improving our personal health.
Imagine a world where everyone was willing to lend a helping hand to people in need. Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful place? The good news is that you can make an impact by starting small within your own town or with a cause that you believe in.
We know that we feel better by helping others, but researchers have studied this reaction more and more in recent years and have even coined a term for these feelings of happiness known as “helper’s high.”
Here are five ways that getting involved with volunteer work benefits personal health and wellness.
Spending time with family: Many families struggle with spending time together due to conflicting work schedules or parents working more than one job. Carving out a small amount of time based on the availability of family members is a great way to spend time together and create family bonds. This doesn’t have to be restricted to immediate families; bring together extended family members, too! For parents, volunteering helps teach children the importance of giving back at a young age. The University of Minnesota cites that when a family volunteers together, it is a social activity that provides bonding without needing to spend money, and it boosts the overall self-esteem of the family unit.
Provides a sense of purpose: When life doesn’t go as planned, we sometimes lose our sense of purpose. This is a growing trend in the senior population according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. In their study conducted on volunteering, they found that adults over the age of 65 enjoyed volunteering because it provided a sense of personal accomplishment, especially after losing an important identifying role in their lives (like being a parent or having a title at a job).
Builds social bonds: Co-workers, friends, and family members can all build stronger bonds while working together for a cause, whether it is building a home in the community or helping out at a fundraiser.
The action of volunteering allows individuals to focus on coming together for the greater good, which improves mental health and strengthens relationships.
Maintaining and creating these social bonds is especially helpful for senior adults suffering from loneliness, as it is an opportunity to socialize with others.
Improves physical health: In many instances volunteering requires physical activity, whether it is from moving boxes, standing for long periods of time, walking dogs, or planting gardens. This physical boost also benefits the brain since exercise has cognitive health benefits, including providing a mental uptick. Researchers know more now than ever before about how sedentary lifestyles are damaging to our health. By volunteering, you can get active in a meaningful way! Even individuals with limited mobility can physically improve well-being by doing gentle movement tasks that are easier on the body, like folding clothes or filing paperwork.
Volunteering teaches job skills: While volunteering is unpaid, there are still numerous opportunities to improve skills that will be useful in an employment setting. In fact, many organizations that accept volunteer help provide extensive training. Individuals who work in sales can improve their marketing skills by raising awareness for their volunteer organization. Aspiring artists can hone their crafts, too. For example, photographers can build portfolios by taking photographs of adoptable pets or happenings within the organization.
If you want to get involved in volunteering, choose a cause you are passionate about and start by visiting Volunteer Match and punching in your zip code. Volunteer Match is a website designed to match organizations with the right volunteers.