I learned the benefits of volunteering at a young age. My Mom instilled in us the value of serving for the issues or causes that make this world a better place. I had the early experience of feeling what it is like to serve others. If you have ever volunteered, you know exactly what I am talking about. I didn’t have the words to describe it back then, I just knew it felt good. Well in this day and age we have the benefit of data to tell us why it feels good!
Some of the most significant mental and physical health benefits of volunteering include:
- Increased social connections: Volunteering offers opportunities to meet and connect with new people, expand your social networks, and create meaningful relationships, which can enhance overall mental and emotional health. You will meet like-minded people who share your passion for the cause. Regular volunteering can also help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation by providing a sense of belonging and connection to the community.
- Enhancing physical health: Engaging in volunteer work often involves physical activity, such as outdoor cleanup or helping with events, leading to improved physical fitness and overall well-being. Regular physical activity is also known to help lower blood pressure levels. Volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment, helping to reduce stress levels. Chronic stress can contribute to elevated blood pressure, so managing stress through meaningful activities like volunteering may help lower both stress and blood pressure. Those with chronic health conditions and disabilities can participate in volunteer work as well.
- Reducing depression: Volunteering can reduce depression because it encourages you to move more, be social and connect with your community, plus help those in need. Older adults who regularly volunteer have lower rates of depression and reduced stress levels. Helping others is a great way to feel better about yourself. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment and can distract from personal problems and provide a sense of perspective, reducing stress levels and promoting overall well-being.
- Improving self-confidence: A large part of being a volunteer involves talking with others and having to effectively express yourself. The more you talk, the more you learn to advocate (for the cause and yourself), leading to higher levels of self-confidence. Volunteering allows individuals to contribute to their community and make a positive impact, which in turn can lead to a greater sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence.
- Lowering risk of cognitive decline: Staying mentally active through volunteering tasks and interactions can potentially reduce the risk of cognitive decline and improve brain function. For example, volunteering in schools to read or tutor is a great way to help us enhance our mental capacity.
- Contributing to a cause: Actively supporting a cause or mission that is important to you is a great way to feel connected to something bigger than yourself. Donating money to a nonprofit organization is also a great way to show your support, but the donation of your time can be even more valuable. The more you care about your volunteer work and the cause it supports, the more likely you will be to continue long-term and give 100% of your effort, resulting in even more health benefits.
Volunteering in your community with a cause you support is good for your body, mind and soul. We live in a community with an amazing number of opportunities to volunteer, there is no reason to deprive yourself of feeling good, improving your health and impacting the lives in our community.
If you are looking for volunteer opportunities in Western Nevada County, come to Passion in Action, a community volunteer and job fair, Saturday, June 3 from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Main Street Center building at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. For more information https://cnlsierra.org/2023-community-volunteer-job-fair/
I look forward to seeing you there!
Vivian Tipton, Board Member, Center for Nonprofit Leadership. CNL produces the Passion in Action event in partnership with the Nevada County Fair, County of Nevada and 211 Connecting Point/Volunteer Hub.