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Summary: Serving others is an important reason to volunteer, but did you know that volunteering can actually improve your mental and physical health?
We all know that volunteering is good for our community and many of us may be trying to volunteer more. But did you know that volunteering is just as beneficial to you as it is to the people you’re helping? Here are a few reasons why:
Mental and Physical Health
We all know that helping someone else or being nice makes us feel positive as well. Paying it forward and spreading kindness are popular concepts for a reason: they make us feel good about ourselves and our place in the world. Beyond simply “feeling good,” studies have actually shown that volunteering can benefit our physical and mental health, including things like lowering blood pressure and reducing feelings of anxiety and/or depression.
In addition to making us physically and mentally feel better, volunteering gives us a fresh perspective. Imagine that you’ve been stressing over buying a home or figuring out what clothes to buy for your first job out of college. Then, you spend an afternoon volunteering at a homeless shelter. Suddenly, you realize your problems are nothing compared to what other people are dealing with. Sure, your problems are valid and you need to deal with them, but seeing that your issues are nominal compared to something else you could be dealing with can put them into perspective and reduce your stress around the situation.
A Break from “Life”
Another great aspect of being able to volunteer is that the activity distracts your mind from the troubles of your daily life. If you’re an anxious person, then you probably know what it feels like to constantly have thoughts, worries or “to-do” lists running through your head. When you volunteer, more often than not, you’re there for a set period of time and are focused during that time. Since you can’t leave and can’t get personal work done during that time, you’re allowed to give your mind a break and live in the moment. If you find somewhere to volunteer that you genuinely love, it will allow you to enjoy your time, what you’re doing, and the people you’re with.
Lastly, volunteering allows you to have more human connection. We often assume that retired persons volunteer because they have more time. While that might be true, it’s also found that they do so because it allows them to create more meaningful connections with others since they’re no longer doing so in the workplace. Many people who are going through difficult stages of life that create a sense of loneliness benefit from volunteering. Even if you don’t feel that’s true for you, volunteering is still incredibly beneficial in creating human connections.
If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should sign up for a volunteer project or start looking for one in the first place, now is the time to give it a try. The benefits far outweigh any negatives that might be holding you back. Once you give it a try and find somewhere you enjoy, you’ll be incredibly grateful that you gave volunteering a chance.
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