The Health Benefits of Volunteering
One way you can show appreciation for your society and give aid to your community members is by volunteering. Not only does this gesture of kindness benefit those you help, it also can benefit you!
You can get a lot out of being an active member of your community — locally, nationally, and globally. While volunteers often work to serve others, studies have found that volunteering and charity can benefit those who volunteer as well — both in their physical health and mental wellbeing. Don’t believe us? Keep reading! We’ll explain how your whole self can benefit from your charitable efforts!
Keeps You Active
Helping you stay physically active may be the most straightforward benefit of volunteering, but it’s for a good reason, especially if you’re retired. While there are some ways you can volunteer from your own home, most commonly, volunteer activities happen out in the community like cleaning up your neighborhood or giving food to the needy. These activities can lead to a healthier you. In fact, one 2013 study found that 76 percent of their participating volunteers reported feeling healthier and less stressed as a result of their efforts in the last 12 months. Other studies also point toward lower hypertension rates and mortality rates among seniors. The positive health results from volunteering can be so profound that one study announced their participating volunteers were as healthy as non-volunteers who were five years younger!
Research suggests that volunteering can even protect cognitive function in seniors, further combating age-related cognitive decline.
Even if you’re not doing something physical, volunteering can help you to stay mentally active, which is an excellent way to stay mentally sharp as you age. Research suggests that volunteering can even protect cognitive function in seniors, further combating age-related cognitive decline. This has been backed up by other studies as well. These findings alone should encourage any seniors looking to protect their cognitive health to find a cause they believe in helping.
Keeps You Happy
It has been fairly well-established that taking part in charitable efforts can lower levels of depression in people of all ages, especially in seniors. Volunteering can also be effective at reducing stress, both in the sense that it acts as a buffer against stress and can help you relieve it. There’s even evidence that you may feel stress relief from a sense of control over an otherwise stressful problem.
Having a purpose, like volunteering, has even been found to potentially help you live longer.
Beyond protection against negative mental health outcomes, volunteering has been found to make you generally happier. This could be because volunteering can give you a sense of purpose. In turn, this can help you sleep better, lower your risk of heart disease, and again, help you resolve stress. Having a purpose, like volunteering, has even been found to potentially help you live longer.
Keeps You Sociable
The benefits don’t end there. Rarely will you be volunteering for something by yourself. Usually, you’ll be part of a team, which brings a social aspect into the equation. Volunteering can be a great way to make new friends, since it can get you out of the house and interacting with people who share similar values to you. This is especially valuable when you consider that making friends as we age can become harder. Friendships as we age can also become critical to our health when you consider the numerous benefits.
Having strong friendships can also help to reduce stress and to cope with stress when we’re dealing with it.
Studies show that friends make us happier, which has health benefits in and of itself. Having strong friendships can also help to reduce stress and to cope with stress when we’re dealing with it. Perhaps the most important benefit of friendship is that it helps us to avoid isolation. For seniors, isolation is not only a problem of epidemic proportions, it can be incredibly detrimental to one’s health — potentially leading to physical and mental decline and a higher morbidity rate. Finding enriching friendships through volunteering can protect against this.
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It’s important to volunteer for the right reasons. Even though you can benefit from your charity, it’s better if you’re working for truly charitable reasons. One 2012 study found that participants who regularly volunteered generally lived longer than others, but only if their intentions were charitable. A similar result was found with some of the mental benefits, too. If you don’t have a positive opinion of other people, volunteering can be less effective at combatting stress. What all this means is that, while you’ll still likely get benefits from volunteering, it’s important to find a cause you truly support and to have a good attitude about the people you’re helping.
At the end of the day, volunteering is all about helping those in need and supporting causes you believe in. It just happens to be a nice little bonus that it can be such a healthy way to spend your time. And, considering how many health and mental benefits you can get, maybe it’s more than just a nice little bonus! Maybe volunteering is an enriching experience for everyone involved.