Volunteering to help others has many side benefits. Read more to discover how serving other people takes you down the path to your own well-being.
When was the last time you gave a compliment or smiled at someone on the street? If you do so often, congratulations! You’re improving your health!
Most people focus on the help you’re providing to other people, animals, the community, or the environment when you volunteer, but serving others often gives just as much, if not more, to the person volunteering. Sure, you might say, a person feels good when they help others, but can that really be called more? Just check out this list of benefits you get when you serve others.
Reduce Loneliness and Depression
There are a few ways volunteering can help you in this category, but one of the biggest, I believe, is that helping others helps you feel needed. Well, it’s more than feeling needed; you are needed! Those you serve are happy to see you, excited to talk to you, and glad to do what they can to make you happy as well. It’s hard to remain lonely when you know someone’s face is going to light up like the sun when you walk in the room. And, though depression is a lot more complicated, studies have found that volunteering reduces rates of depression, especially as you get older.
Increase Self-Esteem and Happiness
How can you feel worthless when someone thanks you from the bottom of their heart after you make a lawn of the jungle in front of their house, or help them get the grades they need to graduate? You built that house with Habitat for Humanity; you put those smiles on their faces. Volunteering gives you a sense of purpose and accomplishment, made all the more valuable because it was your choice to do it.
Make Great Friends and Connections
Yes, I built a house, but it was a long time ago. Did you really think it ended there? When serving others, you build long-lasting relationships. You can make great friends when volunteering, and it’s not only with those you serve, but with other volunteers as well. These connections can grow, giving you a large and stable social network you can depend on in your own times of trouble. And that’s not to mention the fun times you’ll have in between those moments!
Increase Lifespan and Decrease Illness
Now, it’s not entirely certain whether this benefit is a result of causation or correlation, but in the end, does it really matter? People who volunteer might become more physically active and aware of their health needs, or people who are more physically active and aware of their health needs are more likely to volunteer. I figure it doesn’t matter which one came first. If you start volunteering, you’re likely to start being more active (especially if you’re providing a physically active service).
The hormones released when doing good also have a good effect on our health. Studies show volunteering lowers blood pressure and reduces the risk of heart disease. Volunteering also reduces stress (those feel-good hormones again, along with physical activity), which is a serious strain on health nowadays.
Increase Your Value at Work
Many people aren’t very happy or healthy when they stress over financial problems. Financial issues can wreck a lot of things in your life, not just your health. So consider this, how many companies would pay more for a person who has great people skills, fast and accurate problem solving skills, good focus, and an ability to communicate? Add in the ability to work in a team and experience project planning, among other things, and you have someone worth a lot more in a company’s eyes. Volunteering can give you these abilities and more. And since you can choose how or where you volunteer, you can easily pick something that gives you the most benefit and experience.
Now here’s the thing: this only works if you honestly want to help. You can’t go into volunteer work grumbling, ticking off that checkmark to prove to someone else you did it. Your body knows. You can’t really expect to reduce stress when you’re stressing about not wanting to do it, after all. This might be why the health benefits of volunteering increase as you get older. Most kids probably aren’t helping Grandpa weed the garden because they want to, but as you age, things like that do become a choice, and one you make gladly.
The best results come with about two hours of volunteer service a week, so find something or someone that you care about and get to work! I promise you won’t regret it.