Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits

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With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering are enormous to you, your family, and your community. The right match can help you to reduce stress, find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. Volunteering can also help protect your mental and physical health. Learn more about the many benefits of volunteering and find tips on getting started as a volunteer.

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community.

  • Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place.
  • Helping out with even the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need.
  • Volunteering can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help.
  • Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.

Volunteering helps you make new friends and contacts

One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to commit to a shared activity together.

  • Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, especially if you are new to an area.
  • It strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities.

Volunteering increases your social and relationship skills

While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people.

  • Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests.
  • Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.

Benefits of volunteering #2: Volunteering is good for your mind and body

Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.

  • 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. Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Volunteering combats depression. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against depression.
  • Volunteering makes you happy. 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.
  • Volunteering provides 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. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.

I have limited mobility—can I still volunteer?

People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can still benefit greatly from volunteering. In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.

  • Many people choose to volunteer their time via phone or computer. In today’s digital age many organizations need help with writing, graphic design, email, and other web-based tasks.
  • Some volunteer organizations require you to attend an initial training session or periodical meetings.
  • In any volunteer situation, make sure that you are getting enough social contact, and that the organization is available to support you should you have questions.
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