Volunteering: How Helping Others Helps You!
Small acts of kindness go a long way. Holding a door open can not only brighten a stranger’s day, but it can also positively impact yours. When have you ever felt bad about holding the door for someone or helping a neighbour carry their groceries inside?
Same goes for volunteering. Volunteering doesn’t just help others - helping others also helps you.
First and foremost, it is rewarding in more ways than one. Surprisingly, volunteering can positively impact your personal growth and development. It can help you learn about yourself and push you out of your comfort zone. You may develop new skills or who knows, maybe even a hidden talent. You give and you get.
And don’t worry - you don’t need to dedicate a whole day or even a whole afternoon to volunteering. Research indicates that 2 or 3 hours a week is enough to score some major benefits, mentally and physically.
So, What Are the Benefits of Volunteering?
As aforementioned, volunteering pushes you toward personal growth and development. It can make you happier and healthier! Here’s how:
It Forces You to Socialize
Interestingly, 25-60% of the general population is lonely. Wait - what?
Basically, we all feel lonely at some point. We crave connections. In fact, we need them.
Communication and socialization are innate for human beings. Our society is constructed around social aspects. One study even suggested that social interaction could increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in patients, indicating that positivity and social support go a long way for our physical health.
In other news, socializing is good for our mental health. Psychologists believe that it has numerous benefits. These benefits include increased longevity, stronger immunity, decreased risk of depression, and a less likely chance you will develop dementia later in life.
Volunteering offers the means to interact and socialize with others. You may create new friends or form new bonds. Of course, this may depend on what type of volunteering you sign up for, but most kinds force you to talk and connect with others.
So, get out there! Dedicate a few hours a week to volunteering. We all feel lonely at one point or another. Know that you don’t have to, and know that you are not alone.
It Helps Keep You Emotionally Stable
Socialization further drives emotional stability. Become more aware of your thoughts and emotions. Flip your perspective upside down. Help out at a soup kitchen and count your blessings. Maybe you need this to realize that what you have is a lot more than you thought.
Sometimes, we get caught up in our own heads and our own problems. We blow things out of proportion.
Ground yourself. Force your own personal growth and development by volunteering. Connect and understand that some people are actually worse off. Be thankful for what you have, and help others that truly need it.
It Improves Your Skill Set & Work Experience
Volunteering looks good on the resume. It can broaden your experience and expand your skill set. It shows employers that you are willing and wanting to learn beyond monetary gain.
Most jobs come with a prerequisite regarding experience. One job posting may say “1-2 years experience required.” It can limit you. But why can’t you gain this experience by volunteering your time for a year or 2? A couple of hours a week is all it takes.
If you are unhappy in your current job, volunteering can also provide a great way to dip your toes into different areas that may interest you. It could open doors for you to make that career change you’ve been craving. Try a few different volunteer positions out, and go find your happy!
It Lowers Your Risk of Depression
It feels good to help others - it’s rewarding! Thus, volunteering decreases your risk of depression and increases your overall happiness.
How? It gives you a sense of purpose. Evidence shows that those with PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, low self-esteem, and anger issues responded positively to volunteering-based therapy methods. It gave them means to connect and socialize.
Volunteering can change and save lives, including yours and those around you. Boost your mental health one volunteer hour at a time.
Volunteering Can Help With Stress
The social aspects associated with volunteering can help you decrease the stress in your life. Maybe it offers something for you to do other than work. Perhaps it gives you the means to bond and connect with others.
Maybe it just makes you feel good. Science even backs this up! When we volunteer and help others, our oxytocin levels increase. Oxytocin promotes feelings of calm and can help you de-stress. Find your zen and start volunteering today!
It Makes You Physically Healthier
Surprisingly, volunteers have better overall health than those who never volunteer. They live longer and happier lives. Studies suggest that these people walk more, which contributes to less chronic illnesses and pain.
Want to stay mobile well into your old age? Volunteer more.
It Brings Fun Back Into Your Life
With all the bad news in the media, we could all use a little more fun and happiness in our lives. It can be fun trying new things, like helping out at an animal shelter or learning to cook a new meal. It can inspire creativity and motivation that maybe you lost somewhere along the way. Volunteering is fulfilling in so many ways.
It can also help you find balance. Do you spend 40 hours a week at a desk indoors? Volunteer for dog walking or at an outdoor children’s summer camp. Do the opposite of your work. Balance it out. If you don’t move during your workday, find something that requires you to walk around and move more! Bring the fun back into your week, and switch up your regular routine.
Where Can You Volunteer?
There are endless options. It also depends on the city you live in. It may further be beneficial to make a list of what would interest you in terms of volunteer options. What do you want to try? What setting would you want to volunteer in? What is important to you?
Generally, any of the following offer great volunteer options:
- Help out a children’s camp, school, organization, or sport league.
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter.
- Look up your local pet shelter or humane society.
- Enjoy reading? Try out the library.
- See what volunteer positions are available at your favorite museum, park, or historical site.
- Reach out to women’s shelters and LGBTQ+ safe spaces.
- Drop by senior’s homes and nursing homes to visit with the residents or help the cleaning staff.
- Ask at your local church or place of worship.
- Research volunteering at the hospital or a clinic.
- Organize a fundraiser for a worthy cause all on your own!
Often, contacting the city or looking up volunteering on your town’s website can provide another great starting point. The important thing is to find something you are passionate about and interested in. If you already have an organization or company in mind, try contacting them via phone or email, then go from there.
Volunteering is a Win-Win!
Reap the benefits of personal growth and development through helping others. Find a volunteer experience you will enjoy. If you aren’t enjoying it, perhaps it is time to move on and try a different volunteer position. Talk to the organization you are part of or look up other opportunities. Find something that helps you grow and feeds your soul.
Become part of your community. Take on an active role in the world around you so you can play an active role in your own life.