What are you passionate about?
Do you want to feel good while doing good?
How would you like to see the world be a better place?
Many of us have served at soup kitchens, coached a little league team or even perhaps helped build a home with Habitat for Humanity. By using our time, skills and energy to be of service to others, we not only help people but also receive numerous personal mental health benefits. Research has shown that 2-3 hours per week (or about 100 hours per year) can provide the most benefits as long as the activity is rewarding and something to look forward to rather than another item on our lengthy to-do list.1
So why does volunteering make us feel so good?
Here are 7 Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering:
1) Reduces Stress
Whether we are working with adults, children or pets, a meaningful connection can take our mind off our worries when we put our attention on someone or something else. The richer the experience, the more we feel satisfied with giving of our time and talents, and that results in improved mood and less stress.
2) Combats Depression2
Volunteering can keep the mind distracted from a destructive habit like negative thinking or being overly critical (especially of oneself). It can also increase motivation by providing a sense of accomplishment. We think, “If I can do this, what else is possible?”
3) Prevents Feelings of Isolation
While volunteering, we can also make new friends growing our social network and possibly even our professional one. Picking an activity that we enjoy gives us a higher chance of meeting people who share our values and worldview. Like-minded, like-hearted people come together over common interests. Whether it’s building a community garden, campaigning for specific political movement or giving tours as a museum docent, the key is to show up with some consistency and warmly introducing ourselves. It’s possible to create friendships that can last long after the volunteering ends. And, especially for those of us who are naturally more shy and introverted, a volunteer activity can help break the ice while helping others.
4) Increases Confidence
Some volunteering activities require learning new skills. Gaining a new ability coupled with being in an unfamiliar environment can provide mental stimulation that we would otherwise not experience.3 Also, in growing our skill set to make a difference for others, we can gain a sense of pride and identity, which can lead to having a more positive view of oneself.
5) Gives a Sense of Purpose and Meaning4
Regardless of our age, whether we are still in our prime income-earning years or in retired, volunteering can give meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in ways different than what we do or have done for work. Whether it’s with seniors, children, animals or due to a natural disaster, the willingness to do what’s needed in the moment no matter how humbling the task can put things in perspective and help grow compassion for others while expanding our minds and worldview.
6) Ignites Passion
Volunteering is also a fun way to explore different interests or even perhaps work alongside a master. It can be an energizing escape from your daily routine especially if you sit in front of a computer all day and long to be more active and in the outdoors. Look for opportunities to help clean up the woods you love, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or volunteer at a youth soccer camp.
7) Makes You Happy5
Research shows that feel good hormones and brain activity spike during volunteer activities. Humans are designed to be in community, serving one another. It’s impossible not to impact a community when you volunteer. Just being there and doing whatever is needed is contributing to the greater whole. Volunteering makes the world a better place by aiding a community in need and helping others provides immense pleasure.
There’s a volunteer activity perfect for you given your skill set, physical mobility capacity, and time availability. Your local school, library or church can always use support. Whether it’s tutoring a student, going on a mission trip to a foreign country or being a baby cuddler (yes, that’s holding babies in the neonatal intensive care unit of hospitals), the possibilities are endless. And now with current technologies, there are ways to volunteer remotely via phone or computer. Just make sure there is enough social interaction and support for you to feel connected and fulfilled.
From time to time, people can feel overwhelmed with the mental anguish related to life’s challenges. AbleTo helps people who feel stressed, depressed and isolated feel better. At AbleTo, we provide therapy and coaching sessions based on people’s unique needs and circumstances, all from the comfort, privacy and convenience of your own home at the time, day or night, that works best for your schedule. In many cases, AbleTo is covered by your insurance with little to no out-of-pocket expense. Are you ready to feel good again?
If you feel your depression is severe or if you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, consult a doctor immediately or seek help at the closest emergency room. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK (8255).