How Volunteering Affects Your Whole HealthMarch 23, 2022
Whole health means looking beyond the physical health to include the behavioral and social drivers that have a major impact on our well-being. One way to improve your health and give back to your community is by volunteering your time to an organization that is near and dear to your heart. Not only does volunteering help communities — whether it’s mentoring youth, helping to build homes for those in need, providing COVID-19 vaccine access, or some other act of generosity — there can also be significant health benefits to volunteering.
Giving Your Time Makes You Happier
In a 2020 study published by the Journal of Happiness Studies, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives compared to those who didn’t volunteer. Beyond satisfaction with their lives, people who volunteer on a regular basis are happier because they become more empathetic toward others, enabling them to connect on a deeper emotional level. Not only that, volunteering gives people a sense of identity and pride, which makes them feel better about themselves and gives them the confidence to set higher life goals and have a more positive outlook on life.
Fight Loneliness by Volunteering
Research shows that volunteering can also provide important social connections and self-confidence — particularly for older adults and youth. The more you interact with other volunteers, the more comfortable you’ll feel, allowing you to branch out to meet even more new people.
Physical Health Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering your time means getting out of your house and stepping out into your community. With that comes the chance to walk more, which has multiple health benefits such as boosting your immune system, easing joint pain, losing weight, and even fighting against breast cancer. Older adults who volunteer for at least 200 hours per year reduce their risk of hypertension by 40 percent, which means they lower their chances of stroke, heart failure, and premature death. And if you volunteer outside, you get the added benefit of fresh air and vitamin D, which helps maintain healthy bones.
Volunteering Contributes to Healthier Communities
While volunteering is good for your health, it also provides vital support for your community. There are so many ways to give back: find something that aligns with your interests and fits into your schedule, so that you’re more likely to stay committed. Whatever you decide to do, know that it will benefit your body, your mind, and your community.