Do Good, Feel Great!
So, you just volunteered. Maybe you were serving meals at a shelter or you helped out at a community farm. You gave up a couple hours of your day to help others and now you feel awesome. Not only did you do a good thing and make yourself feel great, you also helped improve your physical and mental health!
Physical Benefits of Volunteering
In 2010, United Healthcare and Volunteer Match conducted a study to measure the benefits of volunteering by interviewing reoccurring volunteers. They found that 68% of volunteers said that their volunteer work has made them feel healthier. 27% said that it helped them manage a chronic illness. People who do good for their community are also in better physical health and are more satisfied with their health.
In a similar study by Carnegie Mellon University, they were able to put a number on the amount of volunteering required to make a difference in a person’s physical health. They found that 200 hours per year of volunteer work correlated to lowered risk of hypertension in people over 50. The author of the study, Rodlescia Sneed, a doctoral candidate at Carnegie Mellon concluded that, “Many people find volunteer work to be helpful with respect to stress reduction, and we know that stress is very strongly linked to health outcomes.”
Mental Health Benefits of Volunteering
The same United Healthcare and Volunteer Match study concluded that volunteering also has incredible benefits for mental and emotional wellbeing. The study found that 92% of volunteers reported that volunteering has enriched their life and sense of purpose. 89% reported that it has improved their sense of wellbeing. 84% reported that they learned important things about themselves while volunteering.
The reason volunteers feel so great after doing something good is because volunteering causes a release of endorphins in the brain in much the same way that exercise does. It also causes spikes in the neurotransmitter oxytocin, which helps reoccurring volunteers better manage future stressful events.
People who do good things for others are also putting themselves in positive situations with like-minded people. Volunteer events are the perfect place to connect with others and help build support systems. Not only do you make a big impact on your community when you volunteer, you also make yourself feel good and improve your health.
For more stories about the positive power of volunteering, check out parts 1 and 2 of our Interview with a Volunteer series. Find your next volunteer event at projecthelping.org/volunteer-search/