Volunteering time and skills has been an essential part of community building for centuries (perhaps even longer!). We know it is important to help others. We know that volunteering is a cornerstone of communities and community wellness. But did you know that giving your time has amazing health benefits? Read on to learn why you should volunteer for your own health!
Volunteering: What Counts
Generally speaking, volunteering is any “labor” that you contribute free of cost. Whether it is giving your time at a bake sale, or creating content for a non-profit “on the house”, it can be considered volunteering!
People volunteer in countless places! Most often, volunteers seek to serve under-served populations and help support non-profits and charities, but that doesn’t mean that volunteering as a chaperone for your child’s band camp isn’t as valuable!
Why should you volunteer? You already work full-time. You have a family, and try to keep an active social life. Who has the time to work for free?
Volunteering Boosts Health!
Simply, volunteering helps make you healthier!
Physically, volunteering can get you out of the house and moving, which is healthier than bingeing another Netflix series. Moreover, volunteering decreases mortality and blood pressure and increasing thinking skills.
Scientists believe that this is because volunteering makes you happier. By increasing empathy and shifting your focus from yourself to others, our perspective changes. When we volunteer, life satisfaction and self-esteem are raised while levels of depression are shown to be lower.
Being happy lowers stress, which has strong implications for improving immunity, lifestyle, and (obviously) mental health. Happiness also increases life expectancy, protects your heart, and some studies show it can reduce chronic pain.
So Why You Should Volunteer?
Volunteering boosts wellness. It increases our own sense of gratitude for our own lives, and mild physical activity such as walking. Connecting with others and building friendships is one of the many ways that volunteering can help lower life stress. Lowered stress in turn increases immune function and keeps you healthier physically and mentally.
9 Reasons Why You Should Volunteer Today
In short, volunteering can:
- counteract negative emotions, like anger and stress
- fight depression
- increases happiness
- increases self-confidence
- gives a sense of purpose
- promotes physical health
- create social connections and friendships
- contribute to a stronger community
- boost your resume
Volunteering is a low-risk way to contribute to the community while benefitting yourself! Many times, you can volunteer once, monthly, or even weekly at non-profits. Many organizations will strive to make your volunteer experience accessible!
Where Can I Volunteer?
Nearly any non-profit will accept volunteers in some capacity. While you may not be working directly with an at-risk population, you can help sort donations, cook food, organize fundraisers, or assist the administration.
You can volunteer at the food bank. As a coach for a child’s sports team. In your community’s shelter or soup kitchen (if there is one). Animal shelters are often looking for volunteers. And more and more initiatives are created to socially support seniors!
If formal volunteering is not for you, you can shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk, or bake cookies for a family member. The important part about volunteering is that you are shifting your focus away from yourself. This improves your outlook on your own life, and increases self-esteem!
Are There Risks To Volunteering?
In daily life, there are always risks. But, that does not mean we stop living.
When volunteering, there is one risk that should not be ignored.
What is burn-out? If you are volunteering on-top of working, on-top of taking care of a family, it can become too much. Many volunteers are working with high-risk individuals and populations, which requires not only time but emotional energy. Burn-out happens when we give too much without taking time for ourselves.
It can happen in any aspect of our lives, and volunteering is no different. Therefore, it is important to have boundaries to how much time we give, and how much energy we invest in volunteering.
I’m not saying don’t volunteer, or don’t care about a cause you are passionate about! But as a volunteer, recognize the energy you are giving, and take the time to give that energy back to yourself through self-care.
You cannot pour from an empty cup.
And you cannot support others if you, yourself are not supported.
Volunteering can be a form of self-care for many, but it should not be the only kind of self-care you practice. It increases happiness, but if you are exhausted from working a 40-hour workweek, and then volunteering an entire weekend, you will not be receiving the full benefits.
Ultimately, while taking care of others and giving our time is beneficial to our communities and ourselves, you also have to take care of yourself and take care of yourself, In this way, you can ensure you are giving as much to others as you can.