Can the answer to improving happiness and health be as simple as volunteering?

There is a lot of talk about things we can do to improve health outcomes and overall happiness. The internet is flooded with suggestions about ways to make yourself feel better both physically and mentally but could the answer be as simple as giving to receive?

Well put simply, yes. Research suggests that volunteering offers a bounty of benefits to the volunteer themselves. Volunteers not only help in furthering the health and wellbeing of others through their involvement in community projects, they actively improve their own.

Studies have discovered something termed ‘the happiness effect.’ Basically helping others inspires happiness. Research from the London School of Economics found a strong correlation between people who volunteer and higher levels of happiness. The more they volunteered, the happier they were. Also known as the ‘helpers high,’ giving of time and seeing positive outcomes is rewarding, this leads to really significant long term health benefits.

How does it work? Well there could be a number of reasons, a 2007 report entitled The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research found:

“Evidence suggests that volunteering has a positive effect on social psychological factors, such as one’s sense of purpose. In turn, positive social psychological factors are correlated with lower risks of poor physical health. Volunteering may enhance a person’s social networks to buffer stress and reduce risk of disease.”

Beyond the health benefits associated with a sense of purpose and feeling good about yourself, there are numerous other benefits of volunteering that are supported by recent research such as:

  • Skill acquisition and development
  • Community connection and involvement
  • Boosting career options
  • Having new experiences and overcoming challenges
  • Meeting a diverse range of people and expanding social relationships

It is important to note that these benefits of volunteering apply to those who feel they are appreciated, feel their work is meaningful and also practice self-care.

Do you want to see a change in the world? Would you like to volunteer and help us tackle loneliness and social isolation in our communities? If so please join our mailing list and like our Facebook page for updates and volunteer opportunities.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” Gandhi

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