After volunteering, you may notice feeling good. Maybe you see a little boost in mood, or you feel like part of a team. Like you made a difference.
When we volunteer, we may see real changes as a result . We may even witness the effects that our efforts have on others in our community. When we volunteer, we know that we are helping others by giving our time and resources.
People volunteer for many reasons. It may be to support a cause they are passionate about or to engage in their community. We often volunteer to help groups or individuals who need it the most without expecting any reward.
Most of us want to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We do not volunteer, for the most part, because it benefits us. We volunteer because it makes a difference.
But, there are even more benefits to volunteering. We notice a subtle shift in ourselves when we volunteer. We feel more connected to others, and we become less absorbed in the normal stresses of daily life. We share our experiences with others and want to help more.
Sure, we know that volunteering makes us feel good. Yet, did you know that, when you volunteer, you are improving your life and maybe even your health?
The benefits of volunteering are countless. But there definitely are social, emotional, physical, and professional perks.
1. Builds Community
According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, you strengthen your community and your social network when you volunteer. You make connections with the people you are helping, and you cultivate friendships with other volunteers.
2. Ends Loneliness
The Campaign to End Loneliness says that close to 45 percent of people in the US and the UK admit to feeling lonely. On top of that, one in ten adults reports that they have no close friends. Loneliness and social isolation are two of the most serious epidemics in the world today. The simplest way to reverse this? Volunteer!
3. Increases Socializing
Socially, the benefits to volunteering show up quickly and have long-term effects. Social interaction improves mental and physical health, according to Psychology Today. The benefits of consistent socializing include better brain function and lower risk for depression and anxiety. You also improve your immune system.
4. Builds Bonds, Creates Friends
Volunteering creates stronger bonds between friends, family, and coworkers. People build closer relationships, better connections, and more powerful attachments to people when they work together.
5. Develops Emotional Stability
Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, low self-esteem, and even Obsessive Compulsive Disorder have all been helped by volunteering. When people with OCD, PTSD, or anger management issues volunteer, they feel more connected to others. They have an increased sense of purpose. Connection and meaning translate to decreased symptoms and improved social function.
6. Improves Self-Esteem
When teens or young adults volunteer, they develop self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of self-worth. Imagine the benefits to volunteering today, where both girls and boys struggle with self-esteem issues. Consider the advantages to volunteering for teens and young adults with eating disorders, social anxiety, and depression. Volunteering could be life-changing (and life-saving).
7. Helps Those Most Affected By Mental Illness
Programs help war veterans recover from PTSD when they volunteer at animal shelters. Dogs are man’s best friend, but helping those in need proves to be beneficial for both humans and canines.
On a more basic level, volunteering reduces stress and improves well-being. Volunteering gives people the tools they need to be happier, healthier, and well-rounded individuals. It also keeps us young.
8. Promotes Longevity
While everyone benefits from a little boost in physical health, long-term volunteers have longer lives, less disease, and better overall health. One report says that people who volunteer over 100 hours a year are some of the healthiest people in the U.S.
9. Reduces Risk of Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s disease has become a frightening possibility for millions of individuals in the U.S. and globally. However, some research has shown that people who volunteer may be at lower risk of dementia from 65 years on.
Studies from the Journal of Gerontology indicate that social service improves elasticity in the brain. As volunteers age, they may be able to maintain the connections in their brains that often break down in Alzheimer’s patients. Any social interaction can help delay or prevent Alzheimer’s, and volunteering can be a wonderful way to do that.
10. Leads to Graceful Aging
Older volunteers benefit the most from getting out of the house, engaging with others, and moving physically. Purpose and collaboration result in mental health improvements and a better outlook on life. Studies indicate that senior volunteers experience the most physical benefit from their service, possibly because being active and engaged leads to more happiness.
Older people who volunteer often feel younger and chronically ill people may have fewer symptoms and pain. Some research has even found that volunteers may have less heart disease.
11. Burns That Stubborn Belly Fat
With more people in traditional desk jobs, we live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before. The risks associated with less daily movement include back pain, disease, obesity, and more stress and mental illness. When we volunteer, even if it is not a physically demanding project, we still get up and get moving.
Volunteers live longer and are more likely to take care of themselves in general, including getting vaccinations and keeping their weight under control. Volunteering at something that requires physical energy may be more motivating than just walking around the block.
12. Improves School and College Experience
For school-aged kids, volunteering builds social skills and develops awareness. High school students volunteer to boost their college applications, and college students volunteer to improve their job search post-graduation.
13. Provides Better Job Prospects
Many researchers have noticed that Millennials are some of the most civic-minded and socially-aware employees. They choose jobs that reflect their values and then continue to donate their money, time and skills. Seventy percent of Millennials share their skills with charitable causes, but their volunteer hours also make them competitive in the job market.
Other generations, too, are finding that civic-mindedness has become an asset in the workplace. Including related and non-related volunteer work on a résumé can often showcase your skills, as well as reveal an openness to teamwork and a talent for innovation. Employers overwhelmingly look favorably on job applicants who have volunteered.
14. Develops Corporate Communities
One of the biggest trends in the volunteer world today is corporate philanthropy. More big-name companies than ever support local and national programs financially. They create employee volunteer programs to support their philanthropic efforts and to retain employees. Companies encourage employees to commit a certain number of hours every year to service programs.
15. Volunteering Adds Fun to Your Years
Volunteering and freely giving your time, energy, and resources to people and causes around the world can create change on a global scale. It is amazing to think that one person’s efforts can change the life of someone else somewhere in the world. However, the best part, and often overlooked is that volunteering is just plain fun.
Excerpted from 15 Unexpected Benefits from Volunteering That Will Inspire You, J. Fritz