It's true - volunteering and helping others in need not only makes a difference in the lives of recipients, it can improve our own mental and physical health and well being. The good feeling we get from lending a helping hand benefits us in a variety of ways:
- There is the social aspect of joining with others in our communities, making friends and assisting worthy organizations in achieving their goals. Volunteering enables us to engage cooperatively with other human beings in a world where even the busiest and most successful among us sometimes find that we have a sense of detachment, or the vague feeling that something is missing from our lives.
- A report from the President's New Freedom Commission recommended that people with mental illness participate in volunteer activities, as a way to decrease the symptoms of mood disorders and enhance functional abilities. Other studies suggest that young people engaged in volunteer work are less inclined to participate in risky or illegal behaviors such as smoking, drinking and drug use.
- We benefit physically as well. Volunteering can get us out and about in a myriad of ways - building, painting, cleaning, even something as simple as boxing up food donations or gathering roadside trash. If you want to get moving, there are many non-profits, churches and other organizations that will be happy to provide you with the opportunity to work up a healthy sweat.
- A commitment of just two hours a week can reap benefits for all involved, and is a great way to exercise self-care at the same time as we care for our communities.
Not sure where to start? Your local United Way, church or community center can all be good resources for information about volunteer opportunities.