Jennifer is currently serving as an Americorps member for the 2021-2022 service year. She also volunteers at the Cleveland Metroparks.
Volunteering benefits not only those you are helping but also yourself. Though you most likely are volunteering (or thinking about volunteering) because you want to help others and/or do some good in your community, volunteering also comes with some lasting benefits for the volunteer.
Whether you are volunteering to help your community, individuals, animals, or the environment, what you get back from your acts of service can be worth just as much as the work you put in. Below, we explore five of the main benefits of volunteering in your community.
1. It Can Help Reduce the Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Stress
One of the key factors in developing depression is social isolation. Volunteering helps you to connect with others and build a social support network. Volunteering is thought to be helpful in reducing rates of depression, especially in individuals ages 65 and older, who may be more likely to face social isolation after retirement. Helping others in itself is thought to greatly increase feelings of happiness in most people.
Working with animals, in particular, has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety symptoms and to improve mood. Consider volunteering for your local animal shelter, wildlife rehabilitation center, or zoo.
2. It Can Provide You With Work Experience and Allow You to Learn New Skills
By volunteering, you will likely learn many new skills. These can include life skills as well as job skills that can help you to advance your career. Depending on your volunteer role, you can learn hard skills that relate directly to your career field and soft skills such as collaboration, resourcefulness, and initiative, which are valuable assets in almost every career field.
The experience you gain by volunteering is especially valuable if you have little work experience or a gap in your employment. Most employers look favorably on resumes that include volunteer experience. Volunteering lets you stand out from other applicants and shows employers that you care about things other than just earning a paycheck.
If your volunteer role is related to the job you are applying for, it will give you a leg up against the competition when applying for jobs. For those who are switching careers, volunteering in positions related to your new field gives can give you valuable experience and allow you to jump-start your new career.
3. It Can Help You Boost Your Self-Esteem and Gain a Sense of Purpose
Volunteering has been shown to help boost your self-esteem and help to give you a greater sense of purpose in your life. As you gain new experiences and skills through your volunteer work, you will likely feel better about yourself and your abilities. Giving back to your community will give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of having a greater purpose in your life.
4. It Can Help You Manage Your Health by Staying Physically and Mentally Active
Volunteering can help you to stay physically and mentally active—especially if you are retired—and doing so has many benefits to your health. Studies have shown that volunteers report better physical health and life satisfaction than non-volunteers. This is especially true in older adults.
Data from the Longitudinal Study of Aging showed that those who participate in volunteering activities had lower rates of mortality than those who did not. Multiple studies also showed that patients with chronic pain and serious illnesses saw a reduction in pain and other symptoms when involved in volunteer work. Older adults who volunteer tend to walk more, have lower rates of hypertension, and have a reduced risk of heart disease.
In addition to the physical health benefits of volunteering, there are also many potential benefits for your mind. Volunteering can improve your problem-solving abilities and improve your memory as you learn new skills for your volunteer role.
5. It Allows You to Meet New People, Develop Relationships, and Be Active in Your Community
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and become an active part of your community. You can meet a lot of new, like-minded friends through volunteering for projects and causes that you are passionate about.
You will meet all kinds of different people who may eventually become friends or business connections. Volunteering can help you expand not only your professional and social networks but help you to expand your perspective and outlook on the world as well. You will likely improve your social skills and learn more about your community by spending time volunteering.
Why Not Help Make the World a Better Place?
Helping to make the world a better place is, in many ways, its own reward. The main reason most people start volunteering in the first place is simply to help improve the world and make their community a better place. Helping other people feels good, and any other benefits you may gain from spending time volunteering are just an added bonus.
- The Benefits of Community Service
One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place.
- Benefits of Volunteering: 9 Ways Helping Others Also Helps You
There are many surprising advantages to participating in volunteer activities. And many of them relate directly to your career prospects. We enlisted frequent volunteers and hiring managers to share their insight about the benefits.
- The 6 health benefits of volunteering (Mayo Clinic Health System)
From lowering stress to boosting self-confidence, research has shown that volunteering offers many health benefits, especially for older adults.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jennifer Wilber
Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on September 04, 2021:
This is great advice that helps to lift all involved. Volunteering is a continuing source of joy for those who receive the service and those who offer it. We also need to be willing to allow others to help us. That is the other side of the coin.
manatita44 from london on September 04, 2021:
I like the way you put it, Jennifer. It's a psychological and very helpful way and one that most will relate to. Of course, here in the UK, we are very good at giving, but sometimes become wary and questioning, naturally.
Charity is within the Heart of Christianity and all faiths. It is actually quite crucial to spiritual progress. The great Seer, Vivekananda, use to say "Be grateful to the ones you help, for they are giving you an opportunity to make progress." According to Sri Chinmoy: "Who is helping whom?" Humanity is our brothers and sisters. 'Helping gives us a subtle sense of feeling superior.
Sewa (Seva) in the East and in Yoga philosophy, is really giving from the spiritual Heart --giving from within soulfully and without expectations. Without selfless service, it is very difficult for the Heart to grow. The larger the Heart, the greater the receptivity. The greater the receptivity, the more we become vessels for the Light (Grace) to work.
God is in everything we see and don't see and service is crucial to spiritual progress. Excellent work!
Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 03, 2021:
This is really interesting. I've been volunteering in a Charity Shop for about 6 years now and really enjoy it. I've made so many good friends for this role.