Volunteering can make you happier while benefiting the community you are part of

By August 4, 2020 LifeStyle

Source with thanks from washingtonpost.com

Volunteering is good for you. It’s a Win Win situation. The volunteering helps the beneficiaries you are trying to support while helping you be happier and enjoy better health. In the article below the author shares some research based findings and tries explain how volunteering helps you. In fact, a very interesting finding is that older people 55-70 years old benefit the most from volunteering. Team RetyrSmart   

Volunteering can make you happier while benefiting the community you are part of

Most of us are social distancing, making us isolated and inevitably stressed. Some groups have been hit particularly hard in the pandemic isolation, including the elderly, people who have lost their jobs and parents who are juggling work and child care. Even so, many people who can are turning to volunteering to help others.

They are a generally good-hearted group that helps others, but it turns out they’re getting a huge benefit that non-volunteers don’t.

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Research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health — good news at a time many report feeling symptoms of anxiety or depression.

As per a study published this year. Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. Additionally, the researchers found that people who volunteered more frequently experienced greater benefits: Those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.

But does volunteering make people happy, or are happy people simply more likely to volunteer? The researchers found the same results even when they accounted for participants’ initial levels of well-being before they started volunteering. In other words, people who started to volunteer became happier over time.

While it’s true that people who are happier do tend to spend more time volunteering, the current study suggests that you don’t need to already feel happy to benefit from it.

Why does volunteering support mental health? First, volunteering appears to be intrinsically rewarding — when we help others, we tend to experience what researchers call a “warm glow.” Second, volunteering is likely to help boost a sense of social connection. In particular, for older adults, volunteering can be a way to stay connected to others after retirement.

Finally, volunteering can be a way to build professional skills and try out leadership opportunities, which is especially relevant to young adults. In the current study, the researchers found that participants ages 16 to 24 and 55 to 74 were especially likely to benefit from volunteering, perhaps because of the opportunity to build social connections and new skills.

Stories abound during covid time of volunteers making food for others, as well as delivering medicine and other necessities. Homeowners and companies are opening their doors to give health-care workers free temporary places to stay while they isolate from their families. Armies of people with sewing machines are making and sending masks across the country at no cost. Even the inventor of the N95 mask is volunteering his time.

While research hasn’t directly compared virtual volunteering to the traditional in-person kind, Lawton suspects that remote volunteer opportunities are likely to also benefit well-being. So, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts lately (so many of us have), volunteering can be a way to help bring you a sense of control in a stressful situation — a happy side effect of lending a hand to someone in need.

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