What better time for selflessness than the holidays? And nothing says “selfless” like volunteering. Volunteering can greatly impact your community and make a difference. Not only do you help others when you volunteer, but in some ways, you are helping yourself. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”― Charles Dickens
A 2012 study published in Health Psychology showed that people who volunteered their time with the right intentions (other than to feel good about themselves)lived longer. That’s right, we have evidence that kindness and compassion are the fountain of youth. Further down are six ways you can get an immediate benefit, all from helping another person.
1. Increases Sociability
When you volunteer, you expand your social network with both other workers and people in need. This creates strong bonds in your community. It also gets networking done, and you have a chance at future resources. For example, if you volunteer at a community garden, you could reap the benefits when the plants bear fruit.
Not only do you make new friends and future opportunities for yourself, you also improve your mental health. Studies have shown that people who volunteer have better brain function, better immune systems, and a lowered risk for depression and anxiety.
2. Improves Self-Esteem
When a person helps others, they get a sense of self-worth, which in turn boosts their confidence and self-esteem. Volunteering like this will give you a better outlook on life, and put situations in perspective. A person who has better self-esteem will have a more positive attitude and a brighter future. This is especially important for people as they age.
3. Reduces Risk Of Alzheimer’s
Social interaction and connections help seniors age, and they slow down the development of Alzheimer’s. Research proves that volunteering offers these same benefits; it’s because you’re using your brain in a social environment. Social service can only improve your brain’s elasticity, which in turn delays Alzheimer’s–or can prevent it altogether!
4. Lowers Blood Pressure
Preventing Alzheimer’s isn’t the only health improvement volunteering has to offer for older adults. It can also boost longevity.
A recent study from Carnegie Mellon University( published in Psychology and Aging) saw adults over age 50 who regularly volunteered were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.
5. Combats Stress & Depression
Most loneliness stems from feeling disconnected, and volunteering solves that problem. Imagine receiving thanks for a job well done from a person you’ve helped. What better way to make a connection?
In this way, volunteering builds a solid support system, which is a critical component when you fight depression. Not to mention, when you give your time to help others, you feel accomplished, helpful, and happier. Work can literally take your mind off something. It’s hard to worry when you’re completely involved.
6. Learn New Skills
Certain volunteer jobs require training before you start. Whether you are helping counsel people in crisis, or raising awareness by marketing for a cause, you acquire these skills as you go. Instead of paying for classes, you can find a program that offers these opportunities in exchange for your time. Many provide educational benefits or even relief to impoverished areas of the world, or within our borders.
Companies like Americorp or Service Year are known for these cooperative programs. Signing up with them or a similar organization can open the door to new skills such as public speaking, counseling, or learning a new language. Why stop there? Not only do these look great on a resume, but they can also be a foot in the door to an internship or even a career.
Helping others is more symbiotic than we think. While you are giving up your time, this action improves your health, lifespan, and in some ways, provides a more positive future.
When you give out of the kindness of your heart, there is an immediate sense of gratification. Serotonin is released, and you feel happier after a good deed. Find a local event in your area and see if they could use some volunteers. You will open a door of opportunities within your health and social life.