Volunteering can help you live longer (really!)
With today’s busy lifestyle (careers, families, church activities and maybe marathon-watching sitcoms on Netflix)—it’s tough to carve out time for anything else, especially if it’s for strangers (or animals!). But have you ever found yourself with that feeling that says, How can I do more?
We know that feeling. And the answer is quite simple: Volunteer!
Whether it’s for your church, a shelter or another nonprofit, volunteering not only helps others, but it’s also good for the mind, body and spirit. And according to recent studies, it can even make you live longer.
Here are nine great reasons to volunteer your time to a good cause. It’s a win-win!
1. Meet New Friends
When you volunteer, you’re exposed to an entire new cast of characters, creating new relationships with people you may never have met in the normal scope of your life. Not only will you strike up new friendships with other volunteers, you’ll also find it rewarding to get to know those you are helping.
In this video, John Vasquez talks about how he gets as much out of the people he helps at a local mission as they get from him.
2. Learn new skills
Volunteering is a great way to receive free, on-the-job training. You can learn more about computers by doing office work, improve your cooking skills at a homeless shelter, learn how to lay tile with a Habitat for Humanity affiliate or learn more about pets (and petting them!) at an animal shelter. The possibilities are endless.
3. Develop a new sense of purpose
Maybe you’re retired or out of work. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one. Or maybe you’re looking to reaffirm your faith. Well, volunteering is just the ticket.
By helping others, you’ll find that it takes your mind away from your problems and gives you a broader sense of purpose—by living God’s love you’ll discover your own love of life and appreciate the good things the world has to offer.
4. Ease stress
Having profound connections with other people (and animals, too!) is a wonderful way to reduce anxiety and stress. It works even better than eating chocolate (and saves you a lot of calories!).
5. Increase your happiness
It’s no surprise that doing good things makes us feel better about ourselves. Medical science agrees. Numerous studies of brain activity prove that our pleasure centers are stimulated by helping others.
6. Avoid depression
Increased activity, feeling helpful, enacting the mission-driven tenets of your faith and making meaningful social connections all help combat depression. By having a broader sense of purpose and being mentally stimulated, you’ll discover that the “happiness effect” is a very real thing.
7. Build your self-confidence
Volunteering gives you a feeling of pride and accomplishment, as well as greater self-esteem. When you’ve found the right volunteer opportunity, you’ll discover over time that you develop a sense of belonging and worthiness. By taking the focus off yourself and spending energy helping others, you’ll be surprised to discover what you can accomplish. Be proud of that new skillset you just learned, or that amount of dogs you just helped find homes, or the amount of people you fed during a hectic lunch hour. You got this!
8. Live longer
Yes, live longer. It sounds like a bold claim, but the benefits listed above all have an effect on your health and longevity. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, research shows that “those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” In fact, “volunteers who devote a `considerable’ amount of time to volunteer activities (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.”
9. Feel like you have more time
We know—your life is busy (jobs, kids, pets)—but by giving your time to others, you’ll find that your time management skills will become top-notch. By getting into a scheduled routine, you’ll naturally create a better life/work balance, finding that you utilize your time more effectively.
It may sound cliché, but it’s no secret that the best way to receive is to give. Wherever there is need, you’ll find that the most rewarding way to live a happy, longer life is to simply as yourself, “how can I help?” Not only will you feel better, but you might also get to pet some dogs along the way. It’s a win-win! What are you waiting for?