By Stephanie Sabetta
During National Volunteer Month and all year round, the MHANJ appreciates the dedicated service of our volunteers in the Association and in communities around the state and country. Why do more than 60 million people in the US alone volunteer generating over $122 billion dollars of economic value per year? (Americorp.gov) One hallmark of most volunteers is an optimistic attitude, a belief that their work matters. Additionally, research shows that many individuals gain mental and physical health benefits beyond the altruistic impulse to serve others.
According to the Mayo Clinic, those who volunteer have lower rates of depression and anxiety, and they are gaining other health benefits. Evidence-based research indicates that mental, physical and emotional health improves as a result of performing in altruistic ways. “Over the past two decades, a growing body of research indicates that volunteering provides not just social benefits, but individual health benefits as well. This research has established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.” (https://americorps.gov/evidence-exchange/The-Health-Benefits-of-Volunteering%3A-A-Review-of-Recent-Research)
One volunteer related the following, “I work with veterans, and I always come away feeling uplifted, like there are wonderful people in the world and I feel so much gratitude for these encounters. I get more in return than I give.”
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VOLUNTEERING
According to Thriveglobal.com, health benefits from volunteering include:
- Improves Mental Health: Research has shown that volunteering releases natural endorphins, decreasing depression and stress while increasing happiness in both the long and short-term.
- Improves Physical Health: With mental health benefits, comes physical health benefits. Giving back has been researched to increase an area in your brain that functions as a reward system, which decreases your risk of heart disease and your mortality rate. This is an addition to the physical exercise you receive while volunteering with others.
- Expands Your Network: Surrounding yourself with good, motivated people is the key to success. As you work with others, you are sure to meet other like-minded individuals with the same aspirations as you. Networking with individuals will build long-lasting relationships and down the road, these relationships will benefit you.
- Develops New Skills: Giving back is always an opportunity to grow and learn new skills. Whether it be soft skills such as public speaking or networking, no matter the project, volunteering will grow your skill set.
- Transforms Your Perspective: Giving back to the community will always develop your personality and perspective. Adopting gratitude always comes with volunteer work. Helping others who were in the same position as you will help you remember the number of individuals who helped you to success. Expressing gratitude has its own mental and physical benefits and this perspective will take you far in life.
- Fulfills Your Deepest Human Needs: As human beings, we all feel the need to give back. Volunteering gives us a sense of contribution, uniqueness, and significance that makes us feel needed and helpful. It ties into the key human emotion of empathy. Empathy opens up our hearts and minds, releasing all sorts of chemicals in our brains and shaping us into healthier, more fulfilled human beings.
- Creates Leaders: A lot of volunteer work revolves around leadership. And while volunteering, we inadvertently lead others. Leadership isn’t always about being the boss of those around you, it’s about adapting and mobilizing others to do productive work. As you give back to your community, you will be mobilizing others to accomplish certain tasks. (Thrive Global.com) https://community.thriveglobal.com/6-key-human-benefits-of-giving-back-to-the-community/