As the director of a robust volunteer program and avid life-long volunteer, I can confidently say that volunteering truly complements the essential components of wellness.
Here is why!
Helping others naturally elicits positive emotions. Whether it be gratitude, fulfillment, creativity, inspiration, or joy, volunteering fills up your ‘happiness bucket’. Having a full happiness bucket leads to a more positive outlook on life. It is also a very therapeutic way to process and make meaning of one’s own life experiences, giving back to organizations that are close to your heart.
Though you are not being paid, volunteering is a very easy way to gain the experience necessary to help you advance in your professional life. Volunteering illustrates a lot about one’s character to a potential employer such as your interest in professional and personal growth, proactivity with your time, and your ability to connect. It also allows you to develop your professional skills in a more flexible environment and expand your network, potentially leading to new employment.
We know human beings are hard-wired to connect with others as supported by decades of neuroscience research. Building social relationships has allowed our species to survive and then thrive. Positioning yourself in situations, where you are going to engage socially, such as volunteering, will undoubtedly build your social circle and help you thrive. Remember, everyone needs a village!
Volunteering often gently forces you to be in the present moment and reflect on what values are most important to you. You will see day after day the good in humanity and that the Aesop quote, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted” remains true. You are a part of that kindness.
Often when volunteering, you are doing something that you are passionate about and using your unique skillset to help a greater cause. You’re able to build greater balance in your day-to-day activities by doing something that’s satisfying to you, and it is also extremely helpful to others.
There are so many positive benefits to one’s physical health by volunteering, such as reducing stress and anxiety, increasing movement and mobility, and lessening perceived physical discomforts. Though most individuals don’t start volunteering with the main goal of bettering their physical well-being, how nice to know that it’s a likely outcome!
Many volunteer locations will be so thrilled for you to share with them your particular areas of expertise in helping to contribute to their goals. However, you are also going to be exposed to things that are new and continue to add to your skillset providing mental stimulation and strengthening your cognition.
In talking with those who have been volunteering for years, they have shared that they love what they do and continue to do it because they enjoy being in that environment. Volunteering allows you to be part of a community in which you are needed, appreciated, and valued.
The beautiful thing about volunteering is that when you shine a light for other people and organizations, you are also turning on that light for yourself by creating purpose and meaning in your own life. There are so many incredible organizations and programs that could use you and your talents to help them achieve their goals in serving our community. And in doing so, you will gain so much more in return.
Don’t wait to help your community; let volunteerism help you along your wellness journey. Volunteering may just be the missing puzzle piece you need to crack your wellness code!