Giving of yourself, doing something for others, doing something for free…what does volunteering mean to you?

Our communities, and society at large, depend on those who give of themselves, volunteering their time and skills with a range of opportunities and reasons as to why. The benefits to the organizations are clear and well documented.  The interesting aspect of volunteering is the benefit to the individual doing the volunteering.

Consider the following list, and while reading through, I encourage you to be thinking how and where you could not only be helping others, but reaping the benefits for your own health and well being.

When you volunteer you…

  •  become part of something outside of your self and your current circle of work, family and friends.
  • learn new skills.
  • gain experience and confidence.
  • build a sense of personal achievement.
  • have an opportunity to meet new people, and in turn volunteering enriches your life.
  • challenge yourself, and stimulate your brain. Studies from the Journal of Gerontology show volunteering improved elasticity in the brain and reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • develop new interests.
  • attend events at no cost, i.e theater productions, concerts, museums.
  • bring fun and fulfillment to your life.
  • increase your social and relationship skills.
  • counteract the effects of stress, anger and anxiety with a profound effect on your psychological well-being. Volunteering has been shown to protect you against depression through distraction, by taking your mind off your own worries.
  • improve your self-esteem and self-worth.
  • can advance your career. It offers networking opportunities and allows you to explore new career options.
  • can enhance cultural awareness, and have the chance to learn about different perspectives.
  • have a sense of purpose.

By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered when you are being helpful to others it stimulates immense pleasure areas in the brain.

Research has also shown those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate, and that it lessens chronic pain.

Anyone can volunteer.  Those with health challenges and limited mobility can still benefit from volunteering through opportunities such as via phone and computer. Volunteering has a valuable positive affect on people, and truly makes a difference in the lives of others, in our organizations, communities and society.

By your volunteering you actually inspire others to do the same.

Digital References: forbes.com, volunteerscotland.net, helpguide.org, 
charityvillage.com, thebalance.com, huffingtonpost.com
Sylvia Donley
Sylvia Donley has her masters degree in nursing and is the president of the Calgary Neuropathy Association.
#22 Volunteering
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