By Katie Christensen, Manager of Volunteer Services, Upper Valley Medical Center
Life is busy. Whether it’s working a standard 40-hour work week, dutifully watching the grandkids, making dinner for one or a crowd, being a caregiver for family and friends, walking the dog, or managing a slew of miniscule chores; we are all just trying to keep up. So, why should we fit volunteering into our already full schedule? Easy: the Happiness Effect.
Researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and happiness. When compared with those that never volunteer, the study found the more someone offers their time to help others, the happier they are. Among those who volunteered monthly, the odds of being “very happy” rose 7 percent; for those involved every 2 to 4 weeks, the odds increased 12 percent. The chances of being “very happy” for weekly volunteers jumped a whopping 16 percent.
According to CreateTheGood.org, a division of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), in addition to the Happiness Effect there are other verified health benefits to volunteering:
- Decreased Depression: By volunteering regularly you develop a solid support system based on a common commitment and shared interests. This support system has been shown to decrease depression.
- Increased Self-confidence: Adding volunteering into your everyday routine provides a sense of purpose and fulfillment that increases self-confidence. While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering offers an opportunity to develop social skills.
- Physical/Mental Activity: Regular volunteers see an increase in both brain function and overall health with lower mortality, have an easier time witheveryday tasks and a reduction in symptoms of chronic pain. Volunteers also benefit from a decreased risk of heart disease and high blood pressure and, thanks to moving and thinking at the same time, an improvement in cognitive skills.
- Reduced Stress Levels: Nothing relieves stress better than meaningful connections! By spending time in service to others, volunteering provides a sense of meaning and appreciation, which can be calming.
Now that you see how volunteering is not only beneficial to others but to you as well, I challenge you to begin the new adventure that is volunteering! Choose something that interests you and go solo or strengthen existing relationships by volunteering with friends or as a family. Whatever your decision, you are not only providing vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes and your community, you are building a healthier you.