volunteering mental health
04 Oct
  • By Camilla Marsh
  • Cause in

5 Ways Volunteering Improves Your Mental Health

When we volunteer, we don’t just help others, we actually help ourselves too. Many studies have indicated volunteering improves our mental health and well-being; but we don’t need studies to show us this. Just an hour or two of your time serving your community or soaking up the good vibes of nature, and you’ll benefit from an immediate boost in beneficial hormones and psychological symbiosis.

Here’s the top 5 ways that volunteering can lead to a healthier, happier you:

 

1. Volunteering increases longevity

One of the top cop outs for not being a volunteer, is that it takes up too much of our time. But just for a minute (not a fraction longer, I promise) let’s turn this thinking upside down. Have you ever contemplated the possibility that volunteering could actually add hours back to the clock?

Research published by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that:

“People who routinely volunteer (at least 2 hours a week), live longer and experience better physical and mental health.”

Giving our time to purposeful causes, creating meaningful connections with others and stimulating our minds by cultivating new skills – increases our life span. Volunteering gives us time out our busy schedules, reduces stress levels, reconnects us to the healing harmony of nature, boosts our immune systems and reduces our risk for coronary complications.

 

2. Volunteering banishes boredom and loneliness

As we get older, loneliness can become a real hindrance to our happiness and overall health. We may not realise it, but our mental and emotional health is just as important as our physical health and the two have a direct correlation on each other.

In an eight year study of 5882 adults 51 years and older, results show that volunteering regularly leads to a significant decrease in loneliness, especially for those who have lost loved ones. Volunteering enables us to use our minds in creative and innovative ways, to be more physically active, to connect with likeminded people and to interact with others on a deeper level. All of this alleviates boredom and loneliness in our lives which, if allowed to form into a self-depressive daily occurrence, can take a toll on mental health, in some cases even causing premature death.

 

3. Volunteering heightens happiness levels

You know that feeling when you sink your chompers into a chocolate brownie or score the winning goal for your sports team? Both these actions activate the rewards centre in our brain, releasing feel-good hormones into the bloodstream. Well guess what – volunteering has the same effect!

Our gift-giving behaviours stimulate the secretion of serotonin (a mood-mediating hormone), dopamine (a feel-good hormone) and oxytocin (a cuddle and compassion hormone), helping us to reach new heights in happiness with very little effort (and no extra calories) on our part.

Just like other highs, this helper’s high as it’s called, is equally as addictive. So the more we volunteer, the more we want to keep volunteering. The more we help, the happier we are, the healthier we feel, and the more energy and motivation we have to reach even higher heights in all areas of our life. It’s a win-win situation.

 

4. Volunteering provides meaning and purpose

“A lack of purpose and meaningful direction is a common problem in today’s modern age.”

Many of us, both young and old, battle with bouts of depression due to a missing connection to ourselves and our life mission. Often our jobs, daily tasks and interactions, don’t allow us to act out our values. 

Volunteering opens the doorway to a more meaningful existence. Through reaching out and doing good, we experience the values we hold in highest regard and can express who we truly are. Working with others towards a common good, achieving goals that make a real change in the world, and exploring new parts of ourselves, builds confidence and self-esteem. This increased self-contentment can propel us to perform even better in the workplace and in other spheres of our personal lives.

 

5. Volunteering reconnects us

Another misfortune of our modern age is our hyperconnectivity to a cloud-based reality. We literally live with our heads in the clouds, constantly plugged in to the most recent technology, the hottest viral videos or the latest season of Game of Thrones. When we swap the mobile scene for a majestic sunset, magic starts to happen.

Volunteering on nature based projects, whether it be planting trees, cleaning beaches or rescuing wildlife, has proven to pump up our mental health. More than just an influx of endorphins from increased activity and Vitamin D, volunteering reconnects us to earth, to ourselves and to the people around us. It enables us to break beyond the confines of the city and loosen this hold of hyperconnectivity, giving us a grounding that’s so vital for inner contentment and peace.

Are you ready to reap the many health benefits of volunteering? Sign up to Brownie Points for all of the above, plus sweet rewards from our hub, to keep the feel-good vibes flowing!

 

 

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Camilla Marsh
Camilla is a curator of good cause content, nomadic writer and connoisseur of life, on a journey to help others live the best life they can. She specialises in self-development and all things happiness.

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