How Volunteering Is Good For Your Health

Having a bad week? Volunteer your time. According to science, the act of volunteering helps more than just the beneficiaries. It can actually lead to improvements in your personal health. Here’s how:

1) Stress relief - Many of us can be wound up into a ball of stress over our day-to-day responsibilities. However, when you volunteer, you are no longer dwelling on your own problems because you are staying active. In a survey by UnitedHealth Group, 94 percent of volunteers reported an improvement in overall mood. One quarter said that volunteer work has helped them manage a chronic illness­ – that is powerful medicine!

2) Social bonding - In the age of Facebook, it is hard to believe that people are reporting feeling lonelier than ever, but it is true. While social media is great at helping you maintain ties with people across distances, it does a poor job at simulating real friendship. When you volunteer, you are sharing real experiences with others, laughing, using teamwork, making new friends and strengthening your social connections, which all contribute to improved long-term health.

3) Exercise - Going to the gym and doing the same exercises every day can get dull. Volunteering is the perfect way to get your body into motion and have fun while you are doing it. Particularly if your job requires you to sit at desk, choose an active volunteer position in which manual labor is a regular part of the job. Working in a community garden or unpacking and sorting food items at for a local pantry can help you get your heart rate up and burn excess calories.

4) Gratitude - If you watch the news on a daily basis, it can make you feel depressed. However, volunteering can fill you with a renewed sense of purpose and leave you feeling grateful. Witnessing a team of people come together, take on a difficult task and make a real difference in the community, can restore your belief the good of human nature and in yourself. That feeling of gratitude will affect everything else you do, long after the volunteer job has ended.