Health Benefits of Volunteering

Yep, you read the title of this blog post correctly. 

You may be asking your screen, “Aren’t these supposed to be about food and drink?” 

Good question, and the answer is no. 

You may also be asking, “What does volunteering have to do with gift baskets?”

Another good question, and the answer is nothing. 

You see, we’re thinking outside of the vittle/potable box while still sticking with the health benefits theme. I’ve also wanted to write about this topic because I’ve certainly experienced the benefits of volunteering, working with organizations such as the Northbrook Chamber of Commerce, The Peyton Heart Project, Shir Hadash Synagogue, Boy Scouts of America, and Camp Fire. 

Today, we veer toward volunteerism. 

Volunteering Can Help Reduce Depression

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and finally a light is being shined brighter on this issue than ever before. In that vein, it turns out that the act of volunteering can be good for your mental health. 

A study shows that social connection for a good cause reduces feelings of depression, especially among patients suffering from chronic pain. Lending a helping hand gives you a sense of fulfillment, purpose, and may improve your self-confidence. 

A Mood Boost

We’ll keep things in the mental health realm. 

Part and parcel with reducing depression, volunteering can make you happier. According to the Journal of Happiness Studies (I’m not making this up), scientists discovered that people who volunteer compared to those who don’t, were generally more satisfied with their lives and reported better mental health. 

Feelings of happiness are linked to endorphins, also known as the brain’s natural pain reliever

Improved Physical Health

Check it out: you could volunteer without missing out on a gym hour and vice versa. Volunteering can serve as a good workout. 

Activities vary in physical exertion, but movement can improve your heart rate, which helps battle cardiovascular diseases. A 30-year study by Cornell University shows that senior citizens who volunteered had far fewer illnesses than their counterparts who didn’t.

Many volunteering activities are outdoors, meaning you get your daily dose of Vitamin D. Also, you exercise your body, which is important for overall health. 

Nurtures New and Fosters Existing Relationships

People are often recruited to volunteer by friends, co-workers, colleagues, and other folks they know. Spending quality time together and conducting acts of service strengthens bonds. At the same time, volunteerism offers an opportunity to build new relationships. 

The Mayo Clinic agrees: 

“Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests. One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity. Dedicating time as a volunteer helps expand social networks and practice social skills with others.”

Fired up yet! You should be. If you need direction on volunteer opportunities, here is a comprehensive list covering Chicagoland. 

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