Do you ever feel like you’re not giving back enough? Perhaps you give generously but feel like you have even more to give. Whatever the case may be, volunteering can help you in increase your prosperity, too.
When beginning a commitment like volunteering, it’s important to make sure you feel ready, willing, and able to share your gifts with the world. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be in a place where you can help the most while staying well mentally and physically.
Besides the obvious benefits of volunteering, like supporting your community, volunteering allows you to connect with people as well. Even helping with small tasks can make a large impact – think about cleaning up a local park. It takes maybe an hour or two out of your day but can improve the lives of your neighbors greatly.
Jumping into a volunteer commitment is not always the most practical or successful venture ‒ but it’s good for our community as a whole. Giving to your community should be done to help others instead of serving as a way for you to feel better about yourself.
Just because serving comes from a good place doesn’t mean it’s always easy. We can never serve well if our cups are lacking. Think of filling your glass to the top, where not even one more drop can fit without spilling over. When you feel you’ve mentally reached that point, you’ll know: It's where you no longer feel emotionally or mentally drained from helping others. Instead, you feel rejuvenated. Never pour from (deplete) your power and peace. By avoiding this, you’ll know that you’re serving from a place of love and understanding because you’re taken care of, too.
Five Benefits of Volunteering
Whether it helps your local community or the community at large, volunteering your time benefits your mind and your body.
1. It reduces stress levels.
Volunteering can play a tremendous part in reducing stress, lowering anxiety, and even alleviating feelings of depression. Developing a meaningful connection to another person, organization, or cause has been shown to counter feelings of anxiety and depression, especially in those over 65 years old. This was said to be attributed to the social connectedness that came from the act of volunteering, for a demographic that may be missing this social aspect from their lives.
2. It creates feelings of community.
Community is a crucial pillar of emotional and mental well-being. It’s one of the top reasons people who live in the Blue Zones of the world live so long and stay so healthy. These Blue Zones are five geographic areas around the world where the residents have much lower rates of chronic disease and larger portions of the population live longer.
One thing they all have in common is tight-knit communities where residents connect, assist, and share with one another often. Participants in one study who volunteered actually improved their social well-being.
Volunteering can connect you to a community of like-minded people, expanding your perspective and outlook on life. Also, finding a cause you’re interested in or passionate about can go a long way toward fostering a sense of purpose and connection. If you have a passion for cooking, for instance, choose a volunteer effort involved with helping teach others about how to prepare nutritious meals.
3. It can improve longevity.
We all like the idea of living a bit longer, if it means we can stay healthy around our loved ones. It turns out that volunteering can even assist with longevity ‒ but there is a caveat. A 2012 study found that people who volunteer (for reasons not solely related to making themselves feel better) lived longer than those who volunteered for “self-oriented” reasons and people who don’t volunteer at all.
4. It boosts your self-esteem.
Connecting with others can help to give you a sense of purpose and pride. After you volunteer, you may feel more accomplished, contributing to an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem. In helping others, you may notice where you can improve as well, both physically and mentally.
5. It increases feelings of satisfaction and happiness.
Increasing happiness is relative, but there is some research that links volunteering and happiness. Researchers found that “compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better.... [Consequently,] people who started to volunteer became happier over time.”
Volunteering can increase happiness by expanding empathy levels and removing expectations. Happiness comes from within, but once we find that place of peace and serenity, it’s necessary to nourish it with community, service, and passion.
Helping Others, Helping Yourself
Volunteering comes with a variety of meaningful mental and physical health benefits that may end up surprising you. It may seem selfish to think of volunteering in terms of your own well-being, but there’s no harm in acknowledging that helping others can also benefit you in the long run. So long as your motives are pure, if the added personal benefit of volunteering is what gets you motivated, it’s a win-win.