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The happiness effect of volunteering is major. Helping others kindles happiness, as many studies have demonstrated. When researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness in a large group of American adults, they found the more people volunteered, the happier they were, according to a study in Social Science and Medicine.
BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING
• VOLUNTEERING CONNECTS YOU TO OTHERS
One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to connect to others in your community and make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to help. Dedicating your free time as a volunteer is a great way to help you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills.
• VOLUNTEERING INCREASES SELF-CONFIDENCE
You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals. Being part of something larger might be one of the best things we can do, both for others and ourselves. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being and can boost your self-confidence tremendously.
• VOLUNTEERING IS GOOD FOR YOUR MIND AND BODY
Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.
• VOLUNTEERING BRINGS FULFILLMENT TO YOUR LIFE
Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.
Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or help out at a children's camp.
• VOLUNTEERING CAN ADVANCE YOUR CAREER
Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women’s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent.
Volunteering can also help you build upon skills you already have and use them to benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing and improving your public speaking, communication, and marketing skills.
• VOLUNTEERING GIVES A SENSE OF PURPOSE
Most philosophies and religions, not to mention common sense, include a strong belief in giving back to the world. Not only does it have the obvious benefit of helping others, but it’s apparently one of the most therapeutic things we can do for ourselves. Mahatma Gandhi is quoted as saying, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Even MassMutual’s new ad campaign proclaims, “Our happiness is gained through others.” There’s definitely something to all of this. But lots of previous research has confirmed that having a purpose outside yourself is good not only for your mental health, it’s also good for your physical health, longevity and even your genes.
“THE BEST WAY TO FIND
YOURSELF IS TO LOSE YOURSELF IN
THE SERVICE OF OTHERS.”
- Mahatma Gandhi -