As a volunteer and board member for multiple charities in my community, I work on projects that I am passionate about rather than working to receive a paycheck. Everyone has skills and abilities that just about any charity can benefit from, whether its physical work or wisdom. Did you know that volunteering isn’t just beneficial for those being helped? It also helps those doing the volunteering — both mentally and physically.
Volunteer work is great for your health
In fact, it can lead to greater life satisfaction and lower rates of depression, too. Volunteering with and for others increases your social interactions with people in your community. It also helps to build a support system based on a common commitment and interest. These factors, in turn, help to decrease depression rates.
Helping others can change the way you think
When you focus on someone other than yourself, it gives you a sense of purpose and fulfillment. It can even boost your self-confidence! Rather than grinding through your usual daily routine, volunteer or charity work makes you think differently — possibly in ways you hadn’t before. It keeps your brain actively learning new things, too!
Dopamine: not just for workouts
After a day or weekend of volunteering, it’s likely you’ll get a “feel-good” sense. You might think of it as similar to the feeling you get after an exhilarating workout. That sense of well-being is caused in part by a release of dopamine in the brain. Helping others can have the exact same effect. Thus, the more help and positive influence you provide in your community, the better you feel!
Get physical: volunteering is also good for your physical health
One of the facts I was surprised to discover about volunteering is that it has positive effects that go beyond mental health. Evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health, lower blood pressure, even a longer lifespan. For folks who don’t typically get into physical activity, volunteering can help! You might deliver boxes of goods to our local elderly citizens through Volunteers in Service to the Elderly , spend a weekend at Camp Brave Heart playing kickball, swimming, fishing, and horseback riding. Or, even go out to our local parks to help clear bike trails with SWAMP Mountain Bike Club.
Remember your passion
One of the most important takeaways from this is not just to volunteer anywhere, but to find a charitable cause you’re truly passionate about and that means something to you personally. (Finding your passion is a recurring theme here at Allen & Company!)
As far as volunteer work goes, this not only helps you to reap the physical and mental benefits of helping others — but also means you’ll be doing the best you can for the cause.
For example, my grandparents utilized a home meal delivery service (Meals on Wheels) when my parents were unable to help them on certain days. It was comforting knowing they were getting a hot meal. As such, VISTE (Volunteers in Service to the Elderly) is a charity close to my heart.
Finding your volunteering inspriation
You would be surprised at how many local charities or organizations are looking for help — there are so many things you can do in your community, wherever you are. You can ask friends if they volunteer, and what they do, to get some inspiration. But most of the time, volunteers are ALWAYS needed… and ALWAYS appreciated.
Stay healthy my friends, and if you’re looking for more information on how volunteering helps yourself and your communities, my colleague and fellow financial advisor Bill Slover often blogs on the topic in The Real Value.