“One of the greatest ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”
The benefits of volunteering are infinite, for those who serve as well as for those being served. Actual measurable health benefits, however, can range from increased longevity, decreased stress levels, to generally feeling happier and more fulfilled with your life. Various studies that can be traced back to the early 80’s have found that physical, emotional, and psychological benefits of volunteering increase both the quality and length of life for those who choose to volunteer their time.
Here are seven examples of how volunteering can have a beneficial impact on your life and career:
Increases Social Skills & Helps to Make New Friends
One of the best ways to make new friends and acquaintances is to volunteer, what better way to get to know someone than when you are committed to a joint cause? Not only does volunteering provide a great sense of community involvement, it broadens your social network. If you have a hard time meeting new people or are new to the area, volunteering can help provide a chance to practice your social skills and connect with people who have shared interests and common goals, which can make starting a conversation that much easier!
Not only can volunteering help boost your self-confidence because you are making a positive impact on others and your community, it can increase your self-esteem and general quality of life. Volunteering provides a sense of accomplishment, the better you feel about yourself the more likely you are to have a positive perspective on your life, abilities, and future goals.
Builds Time Management Skills
As people who make charitable donations tends to feel wealthier, such is the case with volunteering. Those who volunteer tend to feel as though they have more free time and get better and better managing their schedules to ensure there is adequate time for work, family, social life, and volunteering. When volunteering your time to others, the effect can lead you to feeling more “time affluent” and less likely to waste your free time.
Provides Sense of Purpose/Combats Depression
A UnitedHealth Group study found that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who did not volunteer. Volunteering typically increases social interaction and helps build a support system for the volunteer based on common goals and interests which have been shown to combat depression. Volunteering for a cause or organization also helps provide a sense of a connected purpose in life, which can help to manage and/or lower stress levels which in turn should lower rates of anxiety as well as the likelihood of depression.
Helps Teach Valuable Skills/Provides Career Experience
Many people want to advance their career or change fields but gaining the necessary experience becomes a challenge that may seem insurmountable-no one hires without experience but how do you get it? Volunteer! Volunteering is a great approach to learning new skills or sharpening preexisting ones to give your resume the edge it needs. Volunteering in a new industry will give you the exposure and experience you need to switch fields while volunteering your professional skills such as accounting or graphic design, for instance, to a community organization or nonprofit might be just what you need to get your resume on top of the HR director’s pile or help you make the move from the corporate world into the nonprofit sector. Additionally, volunteers have reported increased their teamwork and time management skills which has helped foster better and more productive relationships with colleges and within other professional networks.
Helps in Keeping Physically & Mentally Active
Studies have shown that volunteering helps the volunteer feel more socially connected, therefore combating loneliness and depression, increasing both the longevity and quality of life. A 2013 Carnegie Mellon University study found that adults over 50 who volunteered regularly were less likely to develop high blood pressure which is a major contributor to heart disease, stroke, and premature death. A 2009 study from Johns Hopkins found that volunteers actually increase their brain function, evidence that volunteer activities get you moving physically but also stimulate you mentally.
Helps Build Empathy/The Happiness Effect
Empathy is what connects the human experience, having a shared goal or cause helps to create empathy between those who serve and those who are being served. The human body is an amazing thing, ever notice how after an intense workout you have a sense of feel-good accomplishment? That feeling comes from a release of dopamine in the brain and helping others has the exact same effect on you physiologically; so, essentially, the more you volunteer the happier you’ll be!
The 2013 UnitedHealth Group National Survey of over 3,000 adults found the benefits of volunteering were in fact measurable:
- 76% of people who volunteered within the last 12 months reported that volunteering made them feel healthier
- 94% of people who volunteered in the last 12 months said it improved their mood
- 78% reported volunteering lowered their stress levels
- 96% reported volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
- 80% felt as though they had more control over their own health
- About 25% have reported volunteering has helped manage a chronic illness by keeping them active and refocusing their energy
- Volunteers have better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional wellbeing including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships, and overall satisfaction with life
Volunteering helps connect you with others; it’s beneficial to the mind, body, and spirit as well as helps to advance your personal & professional skills all the while making you a happier person. Those are just personal benefits, imagine the sense of pride and fulfillment you’ll have when you see the impact you’ve made on your chosen organization or community cause!
For more information about how to become an All Care volunteer, contact Maureen Burge at 781-244-1129 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to come back and check out our next blog installment, “Tips for the Best Volunteer Experience” to make sure you’ve chosen the best fit for you and your skills to make the greatest and most positive impact on your chosen community as possible.