With full lives – work, family, friends and hobbies – it can be next to impossible to find time to volunteer. It may feel like another ‘to do’ added to your ever-growing list. But did you know that volunteering has been linked to improving health? In fact, the right opportunity can help with stress reduction, social productivity, networking, learning of new skills and more! Giving your time to others can also help protect our mental and physical health.
Volunteering offers assistance to both people and causes need, but the benefits can be even greater for the volunteer. According to a study by the Mayo Clinic, the benefits include reduced stress, defense against depression, mental stimulation and a sense of purpose. And while it could be said, “the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience,” volunteering does not have to take a huge amount of time out of your busy life. Giving in small and simple ways can help those in need and still improve health and happiness.
Benefits of Volunteering
Benefit One: Good for the Mind & Body
Studies have found that when people stop thinking about their own problems and focus on someone else, the level of experienced stress actually decreases – who doesn’t love that?! Other positive impacts volunteering has are: immunity strengthens, one’s overall sense of life satisfaction increases and the likelihood of experiencing depression symptoms decreases. This is because helping someone else interrupts tension-producing patterns and replaces it with a sense of purpose, positive emotions and high confidence levels. Don’t believe us? Click the infographic from UnitedHealthcare for more information on how volunteering impacts your health.
Benefit Two: Connections
Strengthening your community and your social network are additional benefits of volunteering. Where else can you make connections with the people you are helping, and you cultivate friendships with other volunteers? Volunteering allows people to meet other people with a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. It creates a chance to form real relationships that can have a lasting impact or strengthen existing relationships.
Benefit Three: Fulfillment & Purpose
We can all agree, it feels good to help others and give back to a cause. Remember, volunteering allows each of us to connect in a positive way – fostering a sense of connection – by building new friendships and increasing self-esteem. When we get involved with volunteer opportunities, we get to expand our knowledge and network, while doing meaningful work at the same time. Not convinced? Check out this in-depth, incredible study by United Heath Group.
Finding the Right Cause
A recent Google search of “volunteer opportunities” resulted in 396 million results. And while choices are good to give volunteers a variety of causes that align with their interests, time capacity and schedule – this can also create an overwhelming sensation and make it more difficult to select something that resonates. So where would one start? Here are three simple suggestions to help get going on the healthy, volunteering path:
1. Start small – the last thing to do is jump into a four time per week commitment. Volunteer once a month, going back because you have to.2. Find a cause you genuinely care for – if the cause is one that tugs at the heart strings, the likely hood of return is high. You will feel good about the time you’re donating and keep it going.
3. Phone a friend – studies say, people are more likely to do something if others around them are participating. In other words, you’ll be much more motivated to leave work if you go with a friend or co-worker. Go drive that accountability!
4. Check local and national volunteer websites – here’s where volunteer matching programs and huge databases may be helpful. If you have a cause or activity in mind, a resource can connect you to an organization or group for additional information.
Here are a few suggestions: