Volunteering is Good for the Mind and Body

Attentions Volunteer Managers, volunteers, and anyone that’s ever thought they would like to get involved civically – one of the most touted benefits of volunteering in one’s local community is that it produces that joyful increase of endorphins psychologists term “happiness.” At some time or another we’ve all been told or overheard that giving back to the local community not only does wonders for the chosen nonprofit but also gives the volunteers a since of happiness for donating their time. Positive statements like, “It feels great to get involved and help others,” or “Volunteering lets me make a tangible difference in the lives of others,” are not uncommon from the lips of those that feel the wonderful gratification of giving their time and efforts to volunteering.

In honor of National Volunteer Week going on between April 23-39, we’re exploring the research behind this long believed positive side effect of volunteering! But is it all just about happiness, you may be asking yourself? Certainly not! Research suggests that the incredible benefits of volunteering can go way beyond just making you feel good and we are going to highlight those.

Emotional Benefits

Let’s start with a look at what current research is discovering about the correlation between mental health and donating your time at a nonprofit. Studies have long found that volunteering helps people through a positive effect on social psychological factors, thereby helping volunteers feel more socially connected to those in the community around them and lessening chances of loneliness and depression. Likewise, studies suggest that volunteering provides purpose, especially for those age 40 and older that may be experiencing empty nest syndrome. Research doesn’t stop there though, volunteering also helps with overall life satisfaction and sense of accomplishment as well. Interestingly, health benefits gained from volunteering tend to increase as a volunteer ages as well. That’s exciting news! It feels amazing now to support your favorite organization and it’s only going to increase over the years.

UnitedHealth Group commissioned a national survey of over 3,000 adults and found that the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling mentally, and physically, healthier after a volunteer experience. 94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said volunteering improved their mood and self-esteem.

Physical Benefits

So maybe you don’t need the Harvard Medical School telling you that volunteering is good for the mind, but what’s one of the top research universities in the world saying about the fantastic physical benefits gained from giving back to your local community at all ages? Awesome stuff.

Harvard Medical School recently published an article analyzing the results from two different independent studies regarding the emotional and physical benefits of those that give their time to a worthy cause. They reported that a growing body of research linked volunteering with great health benefits like lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan! Who needs a better reason to start feeling out that volunteer application form? Citing a study done by Carnegie Melon University, the article continues on to state the low stress levels help fight against bad health and many participants in the study noted volunteering as a stress relieving activity.

Curious about the best types of volunteering to keep your brain sharp and working a maximum speed and improve health the most? Easy: activities like tutoring or reading and anything that gets you moving could also improve cardiovascular health.

Research not only agrees that volunteering in your local community gives a sense of deep satisfaction, but also improves volunteer mental and physical health as well. What better reason than to get out and get involved this National Volunteer Week? We would like to hear how volunteering makes you feel! Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, and share your comments below.

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