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Volunteering and It’s Surprising Mental Health Benefits

Volunteers make an immeasurable difference in people’s lives and often serve with the intention of helping others. But, did you know that volunteering can benefit your mental health as well?

While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day.  Donating your time in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Here are a few of the mental health benefits that result from volunteering:

  • Improves Mental and Physical Health – Volunteer activities keep people moving and thinking at the same time.  Additionally, volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect. Reduced stress further decreases risk of many physical and mental health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and general illness.
  • Provides a Sense of Purpose – Volunteering connects you with a cause bigger than yourself.  Many individuals feel that where they volunteer says something about who they are.  Dedicating time to a cause can give you new direction and allow you to find meaning in something unexpected. It can also take your mind off your own troubles while keeping you mentally stimulated.
  • Nurtures New and Existing Relationships – Loneliness has been described as an epidemic in the U.S. and making friends as an adult can be difficult.  Volunteering is a remedy to this problem because it increases social interactions and builds a support system based on shared interests.  Like-minded, like-hearted people come together over common values. Whether it is campaigning for specific political goals, volunteering time to help sick children in the hospital or working in a soup kitchen, a volunteer activity can help break the ice with potential new friends all while giving back to your community.
  • Increases Confidence – Some volunteering activities require learning new skills.  Being in an unfamiliar environment while gaining a new skill provides mental stimulation.  Additionally, while growing your skill set to make a difference for others, you gain a sense of pride which can lead to having a more positive view of yourself.
  • Ignites Passion – Volunteering is a fun way to explore different interests and learn from others.  It can be an energizing escape from your daily routine – especially if you work in front of a computer all day in an office and long to be more active outdoors.  You can look for opportunities to help with walking dogs at your local animal shelter or help with building homes for those in need.
  • Makes You Happy – Research shows that brain activity spikes during volunteer activities.  We are social animals and are designed to be part of a wider community.  Volunteering helps you make the world a better place and helping others provides great pleasure.

What are you passionate about?

Do you want to feel good while doing good?

How would you like to see the world be a better place?

There’s a volunteer activity perfect for your skill set and time availability.  Churches, schools, or libraries can always use your support.  Whether it’s tutoring a student, visiting the elderly, caring for abandoned animals, or being a baby cuddler (yes – that’s holding babies in the neonatal intensive care unit in the hospitals!), the possibilities are endless.  There are even ways to volunteer remotely via phone or computer.  Getting involved will boost your well-being while you are making a difference in the community.