Why Should I Volunteer? The Surprising Benefits For You And Others.
When we think of volunteering, we often associate it with helping someone else or an organization. That’s true, but there is so much more to it. What if volunteering actually helped us, the volunteer, and those around us in multiple ways?
Volunteering does help those in need and even entire organizations, but it can significantly change the volunteer’s social, mental, and physical health. These benefits are not mutually exclusive, but rather go hand-in-hand. Ask any volunteer and they’ll attest to their betterment and well-being for serving.
We want everyone to experience the joy of serving and be a catalyst for others doing so, because generosity is contagious, impactful, and necessary.
We also firmly believe that it is our duty to focus on others, but we also realize that this is often overlooked and can be difficult. We have so many distractions that keep us from looking beyond ourselves. On top of those typical distractions, the past couple of years we have also had to deal with the COVID pandemic which has made many of us retract even more into our own lives.
Life certainly isn’t easy, but volunteering could at least be part of the solution to a healthier, happier outlook on life.
Benefits to Others and Organizations
There is no shortage of need in this world. You can look around the world and find all sorts of conditions where someone could use help or a particular cause that needs your support.
While it is clear that helping others is good, it often has a more far reaching impact that we may never fully understand. It can go beyond just the volunteer service you performed – sure generosity creates lasting impressions on those we help, but also those around us. It can affect others who in turn want to give back in some way which causes a lasting chain effect.
Volunteers are often eager to share their experiences with family, friends, and coworkers. That storytelling can spur others to start volunteering as well.
There are also countless nonprofit organizations that need your help to serve others, protect the environment, advocate for animals or the homeless, and much more. Find what you are passionate about and determine how you can volunteer with an organization serving those purposes. You don’t have to travel halfway around the world to find it either – it could literally be in your backyard or with your neighbor.
Serving the greater good with your time and talents, no matter how small, can make a positive impact on an individual, an organization, or a community. It can be as simple as helping a neighbor with chores they’re not able to do themselves or as big as fighting hunger on a national or global scale.
Benefits to the Volunteer
Believe it or not, when participating in helping others we often benefit more than the recipient. Doing good helps you feel good.
Volunteering helps you meet other people, have fun, and gives you something to focus on other than yourself. It’s even been shown to improve physical, emotional, and mental health. It gives us a sense of purpose and belonging – inspiring us to love your neighbor and be there for someone else or another who is in need.
Builds your community
One of the best ways to meet people and make new friendships and relationships is to volunteer.
We’ve found and developed many great relationships with those that we served with. Oftentimes like minded people are passionate about the same causes. It can expand your community with people from various backgrounds who share many of the same interests.
It’s not just with other volunteers. You can make lasting relationships with those that you serve as well. For instance, if you were to volunteer for Meals on Wheels delivering food to those who aren’t easily able to leave their homes, over time you could develop relationships with them. In fact, they may invite you in to talk or even ask for you to pray for them. These experiences can enrich your life forever with wonderful, lasting friendships and experiences.
Have lots of fun
Engaging with and serving others can be fun and exhilarating.
You can serve in something you are passionate about with friends, family, acquaintances, or colleagues. It does not matter what volunteer activity you are doing because you can find enjoyment and laughter in them all.
We often laugh as we’re interacting with the volunteers and recipients. These shared experiences with others can carry with you for a very long time and are the foundation for wonderful friendships.
Takes focus off of you
Let’s face it, we have ample amounts of focus on ourselves as well as day-to-day stresses of life in general. It’s easy to get wrapped up into our own world.
It is beneficial to redirect some of that energy towards others. This could be with other volunteers or those you are serving. When a group of volunteers was building a house for a family who had little, the family was so grateful that they cooked meals everyday for the volunteers.
You will probably find that you may have more in common than you originally thought. Volunteering has also made us realize countless times that our problems are often not our own – they’re shared. Equally important is that we begin to grasp that we’re blessed more than we know. This redirection of our thoughts from ourselves to others ultimately helps us cope with our own environment or situation. Sometimes through our hardships we are able to help and empathize with others as we volunteer with them.
Creates a greater sense of purpose
Volunteering creates a greater sense of purpose that parallels the benefit of taking focus away from yourself and helps you see how impactful or beneficial it is to help others.
When you know you’re making even the smallest of differences it energizes you and gives you a sense of pride and ownership to make the world around us better.
Improves your health
From our own observations over many years of volunteering, we are convinced that volunteers are happier, healthier individuals compared to someone who doesn’t serve. We have also witnessed new volunteers experiencing positive life changes. One example was a single mom with two children who needed and received help over the years but when she started giving back to others, her outlook and health drastically changed for the better.
There are many published studies, such as the one from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), showing the health benefits of volunteering:
- 8.54% increase in mental health
- 9.08% increase in physical health
- 7.35% increase in life satisfaction
- 11.11% increase in social well-being
- 4.30% decrease in depression
The NCBI article goes on to say that there’s evidence that higher participation in voluntary services pertinent to other-oriented volunteering contributes to better health benefits cumulatively.
Another study done by WebMD describes the term “Helper’s high” as being an elated feeling people have after volunteering making them calmer, less stressful, and with a greater sense of worth, well-being, and belonging.
You can be the change, starting today
Volunteering takes time and effort and can be daunting to start doing regularly. You can liken it to exercising – you know you should do it, but it’s hard getting started.
The good news: Serving others or your favorite cause has a lasting impact on those you’re serving and also to you. Simply put, it is rewarding. We encourage you to volunteer and you can even keep track of and better understand how you’re making a difference through our mobile app Givefinity®.