Between school, work, family, and any number of other commitments you might have, it can seem almost impossible to find time for volunteering. It can be especially difficult to motivate yourself for something that doesn’t pay and might involve a lot of work or responsibility.
Volunteering is much more than just unpaid work, though, and its benefits can be truly amazing. Particularly if you struggle with feelings of loneliness or depression, volunteering can have a tremendous impact on improving your mental health. Read on to learn exactly how you can gain self-confidence and better mental health through your volunteer work.
Volunteering gives a sense of purpose.
In many cases, a sense of purpose is vital to good mental health. When you believe that you are striving towards a positive goal, it boosts your sense of purpose and overall happiness. Working with a purpose can also serve as a way to take your mind off things that have been troubling you or bringing you down, and this, or course, leads to increased happiness. Feeling useful and needed is so important that studies have found that elderly people who claim to have found purpose in their volunteer work tend to live longer than their peers who don’t volunteer.
Volunteering lets you do work you love.
In the work force, it’s very difficult to find a job that you love, or that fits your interests exactly. With Volunteer work, you can choose from an incredible number of volunteer organizations. It’s often possible to volunteer in an area that you are passionate about, whether that be helping animals at a local shelter, teaching music to children, or helping plant community gardens. It’s often possible to transform your own passions and hobbies into a volunteering opportunity, and the happiness that comes from doing what you love can be a great benefit to any lifestyle.
Volunteering connects you with people.
It’s becoming easier and easier to disconnect from the people around you. In some cases, this might seem like a relief, but the fact cannot be denied that humans need social interaction. People with satisfying personal relationships are happier, live longer, and have fewer health problems than those with weak social ties. When you volunteer, you are entering a network of people who have something in common with you--hopefully even something you’re passionate about! Having regular human connection and the chance to bond with others over a shared goal can be an extreme boost to your happiness and mental health.
Volunteering keeps you active.
Your level of activity will vary depending on your work, but volunteering almost always means either getting out of the house and doing a little more activity than you would be doing otherwise. One study has found that people who volunteer are generally more physically active than people who don’t volunteer, and the benefits of physical activity on mental health have been well-documented. It doesn’t have to be a strenuous workout--just moving your body is good for your mind, and volunteering can help you fit some activity into your schedule.
Volunteering reduces stress.
Stress is closely linked to health, both physical and mental. Stress can increase blood pressure and rates of depression and anxiety, and can just generally make a good day bad and a bad day worse. The good news is that volunteering has been found to help reduce stress levels. Whether it be from the social networking aspect, the ability to work on a passion project, or the sense of fulfillment that some people find through volunteering, volunteering is a stress-reducing pasttime.
It does come with a slight caveat, though: these results were seen most strongly in people who were volunteering for altruistic reasons, rather than volunteering to for self-benefit. Go into volunteering for the right reasons by finding a cause you are passionate about and really believe in, and you might be surprised by all the benefits that will come with your work.