Many people perceive volunteering as an obligation, perhaps one to take on during national holidays or when a neighbor needs someone to take care of their pet. However, although volunteering has many obvious benefits for the community, there are also many significant perks for you. Consider the health benefits of volunteering the next time you wonder whether you should put your name down to make a few dozen cookies for the school bake sale.
Although those in need of assistance may seem to be suffering from stress, many people who do not need help can feel even more stressed during their daily lives. The truth is, most people will need some form of help at some point in their lives. Those without funds are not the only ones who experience difficult circumstances and unsafe situations.
During these times of struggle, turn the focus to other people instead of on yourself. Channeling your negative thoughts and energy into something fun and productive can not only be a welcome distraction, but it can put your own problems into perspective. For example, the loss of a promotion may not seem so devastating when compared to the loss of a family’s home. When other challenges in your life occur, you can look forward to them—they may motivate you to involve yourself in wonderful activities with newfound friends.
Lowers blood pressure
While many view volunteer projects as a sort of hassle due to deadlines and time commitments, the actual act of helping others allow for an interesting type of relaxation. In fact, volunteering can lower blood pressure.
Harvard Medical School researchers claim that this health benefit comes from the fact that volunteering makes the inactive take on a more active lifestyle. A Harvard analysis of a Carnegie Mellon study has examined the number of hours required for volunteers to receive health benefits, and there is fierce debate about the precise number. However, it is clear that both universities see a measurable drop in blood pressure for those who volunteer.
Improves cognitive function
Although volunteers are not limited by age, many are limited by busy schedules. Therefore, many volunteers are often retired or established enough in their careers to take time off for community projects. Dementia and other health challenges that can impair brain function may be warded off by volunteering.
Some new studies have shown that dementia patients who learn a new language have less severe symptoms. If this is true, then sites like Lumosity Brain Games are onto something. Perhaps stimulating brain function can act as a form of preventative care, and volunteer projects certainly engage the mind through scheduling, planning, and organizing activities. For those who have left the workplace, volunteering may be a great source of activity to maintain and improve cognitive function.
Lengthens your life
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteering can actually lengthen your life span—there is a lower mortality rate among those who spend time volunteering.
As stated above, volunteering can lead to a reduction of your personal stress levels, and this may be influencing lifespan. However, the reason why volunteers enjoy longer lives is still unclear. Perhaps these people just want to live longer as a result of finding a new purpose. Another possibility could be that volunteers are somehow being rewarded for their work in the world. Regardless of the reason, it is evident that volunteering somehow boosts people’s lifespans.
The health benefits of volunteering provide additional motivation for those considering volunteer work. However, the real motivation should always be the thought of improving other lives. Those who need the most help will appreciate the volunteers who are excited to participate, and a smile of relief from any stranger is enough to encourage you to dedicate more time to a selfless cause.