Doing Good for Others is Good for Your Health

Lower stress, higher self-confidence, and enhanced social relationships - sounds like the health benefits of exercise, right? Surprise! Those benefits also come from volunteering. Whether you're working at a food shelter, giving time as a literacy mentor, or helping out after a natural disaster, the many ways of doing good for others is also good for your health. 

In general, people volunteer because they believe helping those who are having a harder time in life can actually make a difference. That alone makes those who volunteer feel good about themselves, about others, and about their community. But there's much more to it; research shows that the "happiness effect" of volunteering enhances social, emotional, and physical aspects of health and that these benefits increase as we age.

Social Benefits

  • Strengthens community ties 

  • Builds in-person social networks to create genuine friendships

  • Reduces feelings of loneliness

  • Enhances professional networks and job opportunities

Emotional Benefits

  • Strengthens emotional stability for those with and without mental health concerns, such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD

  • Improves self-esteem

  • Contributes to a sense of purpose

Physical Benefits

  • Lowers stress and tension 

  • Enhances brain function

  • Reduces risk of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Promotes being physically active

People who volunteer tend to take better care of themselves; they typically have lower rates of heart disease, depression and anxiety. These health benefits don't just apply to adults. They apply to kids and teens as well. As noted earlier, the benefits continue as we age and become even more pronounced for older adult volunteers. 

So, find a cause (or two) that is meaningful for you, involve the whole family in volunteering, and celebrate all that it does for others and for you!

References:

NationalService.gov. "The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A review of Recent Research." Corporation of National & Community Service.Accessed 13 Oct 2018: https://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf

Thebalancesmb.com "Th15 Unexpected Benefits of Volunteering that will Inspire You." Accessed 13 October 2018: https://www.thebalancesmb.com/unexpected-benefits-of-volunteering-4132453

CreateTheGood.org "Health Benefits of Volunteering." Accessed 13 Oct 2014: http://createthegood.org/articles/volunteeringhealth

Carlson, Michelle C., Erickson, Kirk I., Kramer, Arthur F., et al., " Evidence for Neurocognitive Plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps Program." Jls of Gerontology: Series A, (1 December 2009) 64A:12, Pages 1275–1282, Accessed 13 Oct 2018: https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glp117 

Raposa, Elizabeth B et al., "Prosocial Behavior Mitigates the Negative Effects of Stress in Everyday Life" Clinical psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science (2015) 4:4, 691-698. Accessed 28 Oct 2016: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4974016/

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