Beyond the feel-good nature of volunteering and the obvious benefits for those within the community, volunteering has a surprising side benefit — it can be beneficial to overall health and wellbeing.
Helping others can unexpectedly help the person volunteering by improving their health, promoting strong social networks and boosting their mood.
According to experts from University of NSW volunteering:
Provides a sense of belonging — research suggests this is a beneficial way to connect with your community and build positive relationships through creating social capital, building bonds of trust, cooperation, and respect for diversity.
Improves your physical health — helping others is also related to improved physical health, including weight control, lower blood pressure and relief from depression and chronic pain.
Generosity leads to greater happiness — the reason for this is that helping others triggers the reward pathway in the brain known as the mesolimbic system. It releases “feel-good” neurotransmitters such as oxytocin and vasopressin. The buzz you get from these neurotransmitters is sometimes known as “the helpers high”.
You can lift the mood of others around you — if a person is feeling positive and enjoying the process of giving, then this spreads across to other people nearby who become significantly more likely to give as well.
Lifts general satisfaction with life — Volunteers tend to be more satisfied with their lives because they’re interacting with other people, setting and achieving goals, and learning new things (OECD Better Life Index).
Don’t know where to start? Begin by deciding which causes you care about and identifying the skills and knowledge you can offer. From there, research opportunities in your local area and work out which ones align best with you!