Posted August 16, 2021 by Angela Smith System Director, Volunteer Services
Volunteering makes a huge difference in the lives of others. From dishing out meals in a soup kitchen to cleaning up trash in a park to holding babies in the NICU, volunteering gives tremendous help to people in need, worthy causes and the community. Simply put, it helps make the world a better place.
But, did you know that volunteering also has benefits for you? Researchers have found that volunteering can give you a positive attitude, increased social interaction and physical activity — all things that make a healthier person in the long run.
Find out 5 ways volunteering can have a positive impact on your life — both physically and mentally. Then, get up off the couch and lend a helping hand in your community. It just might prolong your life!
Decreased risk of depression
Volunteering is a great way to increase your social interaction and broaden your support network by making new friends. It exposes you to people with common interests, and gives you a sense of community and connectedness.
Research has shown all of these things lead to lower risks of depression, anxiety and feelings of loneliness.
A mental health boost
When you volunteer your time, it gives you a boost of happiness. For example, if animals make you happy, volunteering at an animal shelter will surely bring you joy. If you’re contributing to a cause that’s meaningful to you and making a difference in the world, you can’t help but feel happiness.
What’s more, studies show your body actually releases endorphins during positive social contact, similar to the physical response after a hard workout.
Increased physical activity
Many volunteer activities require you to move — whether it’s hosting a dance class at an assisted living facility, giving a museum tour, handing out flyers, washing cars for a fundraiser, and the list goes on. While these activities vary in physical exertion, all of these activities get your heart rate up.
In fact, one recent study found that volunteers reported better physical health than those that didn’t volunteer.
Volunteering and helping others can give you a sense of purpose and appreciation, which can be a stress reliever. Not to mention, socializing helps you take your mind off worries and escape life’s stressors.
In addition, physical exercise has been proven to play a key role in preventing and reducing the effects of stress.
If nothing else, understanding the challenges faced by others less fortunate than you could provide some perspective on your own struggles.
Lower blood pressure
Research by Carnegie Mellon University found that older adults who volunteer at least 200 hours each year were 40 percent less likely to develop high blood pressure. These findings aren’t surprising because increased physical activity and decreased stress all contribute to a healthy heart.
Prolonged high blood pressure puts you at risk for stroke, heart failure and even premature death.
The benefits that come from volunteering your time contribute to a healthier — and perhaps longer — life. Increased stress, high blood pressure, depression and loneliness all can have a detrimental impact on your health. But, simply reducing or eliminating just one or two of these conditions through volunteering can greatly improve your overall health and quality of life.
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