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4 volunteers helping two community members by passing out food from behind a table of supplies
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Volunteering and making meaningful contributions can make you feel useful and appreciated. It can give you a feeling of purpose as you use your skills and the knowledge acquired from school and life experiences, for the benefit of others.

We have all been in situations where we are stressed out and tired because of school, so volunteering is the last thing on our minds. We might even be inclined to believe that adding extra work will only increase our stress levels and add to our anxiety. Well the truth is, volunteering enhances your mental health and wellbeing, it might be just what you need to take a break from studying. Following are three ways volunteering positively affects your mental health:

1. Volunteering Makes You Happy

Studies have shown that volunteers compared to non-volunteers live a happier and healthier life. Making time to volunteer not only benefits them but also makes a positive difference in your life. A study called ‘Giving Times Gives You Time‘, explains this nicely:

“Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).”

Volunteering may seem tedious and time consuming but it allows us to grow in unexpected ways. Studies have shown that we are happier when we are helping others, learning something new, and making something better.

2. Volunteering Helps You Build Social Connections

As humans we are hardwired to connect with other people. Even in our non-verbal interactions such as touch, eye contact and smiles, a hormone called oxytocin is released that helps us connect and care for others and also allows us to handle stress better!  Volunteering gives us an excellent opportunity to build strong relationships, connect with like-minded individuals and develop a sense of belonging.

3. Volunteering Gives You Purpose

Often as university students we can feel lost and it can be hard for us to gage where we fit in and discover our passion. Volunteering and making meaningful contributions can make you feel useful and appreciated. It can give you a feeling of purpose as you use your skills and the knowledge acquired from school and life experiences, for the benefit of others. It can also lead you to realize undiscovered passions and career paths that you might not have come across otherwise.

These are some of the many ways volunteering has a positive impact on your mental health and well-being. However, it should be noted that these results are only seen when you choose to volunteer and aren’t forced into it and when you do so at a level that feels right for you. If you’re looking to make some positive changes in your life, consider volunteering. SFU My Involvement and GoVolunteer are some great websites to look for the right volunteer opportunity for you.

SFU Student
Manal Masud is a fourth year student studying Biomedical Physiology and Psychology at SFU. She enjoys volunteering, running, cooking and reading in her spare time. Connect with Manal on LinkedIn to learn about her volunteer and career endeavours.
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Nov 5, 2015

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