Have you ever been sitting in a meeting or gathering and all of a sudden you realize that the conversation has turned from the topics or business at hand into a commiseration convention about everyone’s aches, pains and illnesses?
One thing I have learned from experience is that when a person focuses on the negative things that have entered their life, they are very likely to live an overall more negative existence.
Idle minds are more likely to atrophy the same as idle bodies.
Hospitals, universities and specialty medical centers across the country and overseas have spent, arguably, millions of man hours to find a healthier way of life.
One of the self-administering health tips that has arisen in many of these studies is the presence of volunteerism in an individual’s life.
Volunteering has health benefits?
Yes, according to several studies done by The Mayo Clinic, The London School of Economics and the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, to name a few, not only does volunteerism have a positive effect on those benefiting from the efforts, it provides separate and distinct health benefits to those making the effort.
Volunteering has long been a vital fabric to the ethics that have built the United States.
Over the decades numerous people in communities have stepped up to give of their time and talents without any expectation of compensation.
While these volunteer activities may be performed with the core idea of giving, many may not realize what they are receiving in return.
Briefly, the studies show that the primary positive effects for volunteers fall into one of eight categories, which have close ties, and much crossover effect.
1. Boosts self esteem
Volunteering helps build a strong safety net that can be used in times you’re dealing with issues of your own. With strong social ties, you’re always surrounded by a community that’s willing to help you out when times get tough. By helping others, you can build a greater sense of trust and self esteem.
2. Expands your connections
The relationships you can create through volunteering are endless and if you do it regularly, you can maintain those valuable social networks for many years.
Besides people you already know, you can make new friends while maintaining the old by engaging in a common activity like volunteering. With a larger social network, you’ll have more resources at your fingertips, which leads to better physical, mental and emotional health.
3. Makes you feel good
Some volunteers say there is no greater feeling than when you have helped someone in need.
Research indicates that the more an individual volunteers the happier they become. It seems that when you give your time to others, you attain a personal sense of accomplishment, which accounts for some of the positive effects that volunteering has on your mood. That same research shows that people who commit at least one or two hours every week reap the fullest benefits from their service.
4. Contributes to a longer life
Volunteering does more than boost your mood — it also has effects on your physical well-being. People who volunteer seem to live longer and have less frequency of heart disease. Volunteers may also be at a lower risk for memory loss. There are also signs that the social interaction of volunteerism can significantly reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.
5. Gives purpose
As people get older, they experience a higher risk for isolation. Volunteering combats that statistic by adding a sense of purpose to your life. The same goes for people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental illnesses. No matter who you are, there are plenty of ways to give your life new meaning by helping others.
6. Combats stress
Tying in with the ‘Happiness Effect’ of volunteering studies show that when you assist others, your body releases dopamine in the brain, which has a positive effect on how you feel. By savoring time spent in service to others, you will feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.
In general, volunteers also experience lower levels of depression.
7. Gives a good example
Volunteering within a family setting is a wonderful way to teach by example some important lessons to your children. Young people are always learning from the example you set for them, so make sure it’s a good one! Including them in your efforts can also teach them positive life and socialization skills.
8. Teaches new skills
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to expand your horizons by trying out new adventures with new people. Honing your physical skills, organizational skills or just having a chance to help someone out; they can all be learning experiences that will enhance your quality of life.
With all these positives that result from the giving of your time to help others it is amazing that less than 25 percent of adults take advantage of the benefits and self-satisfaction of volunteering.
Here’s hoping that 2020 will be the new year that society takes a new look at volunteering as a health benefit and gains 20/20 vision as to the opportunities and needs in the community.