5 surprising benefits of volunteering
Famed civil rights activist Mahatma Gandhi often said that “we are only happy in the service of others”. Gandhi devoted his life to improving the lives of others and recent research into ‘The Happiness Effect’, suggests he was on to something. A landmark 2009 study on the relationship between volunteering and happiness confirmed that the more time people spend in volunteer efforts, the happier they are¹. Compared to people who never volunteer, the odds of being “very happy” rose 12% for people who volunteer regularly.
It’s easy to see the more obvious, tangible benefits of giving back to your community whether you’re serving soup to homeless people or organizing a fundraising gala. But we now know that the rewards of volunteering are not limited for the people we help; they come back to us as well. Here are just some of the unexpected benefits of volunteering:
- Combat depression – People who don’t have a strong network of family or friends can experience social isolation, a key risk factor for depression. Volunteering regularly, especially with the same group of people, nurtures relationships and is a great way to make friends in a positive, uplifting setting. Groups who meet often to give back can become a ‘surrogate’ family providing the warmth and support of a traditional family.
- Develop your career – Job search taking too long? Fill the gaps in your resume by volunteering in your chosen field. Not only will a charity or non-profit organization benefit from your skills, you’ll also gain valuable hands-on experience and hiring managers appreciate the initiative demonstrated by volunteer efforts. Donating your time is also a great way to test the waters if you’re thinking about a career change.
- Stay healthy and active – When Foresters™ members and sales partners spend the day building a new children’s playground, they get so caught up in the spirit of teamwork, they often don’t realize how hard they’re working. While not all volunteer opportunities include shoveling mulch or pouring cement, most involve some kind of physical activity, whether it’s lifting boxes, picking up trash, or even just standing on your feet for a few hours.
- Forget about your troubles – Helping others is a great way to take a break from your own problems and concerns and get some perspective. In today’s fast-paced society, it’s therapeutic to step away from our own lives and spend time giving back. Volunteering, especially with a team of like-minded givers, forces us to think about the needs of people who are less-fortunate. When we’re finished, we can return to our lives refreshed and energized.
- Boost your social skills – For shy people, a volunteer role – no matter how small – can help build self-esteem. Door-to-door canvassing, working a bake sale table or handling crowd control at a public event can help give you a sense of pride and identity. Ready to develop your public speaking skills? Sit on a committee that meets regularly and report your great results with confidence.
As a fraternal benefit society, Foresters purpose is to enhance family well-being and it enables members to give back to their own communities through meaningful volunteer opportunities like building playgrounds or cooking dinner at a local Ronald McDonald House®.
411830D CAN/US (04/17)