Why should I volunteer?
I'm sure we have all thought it... who has time for that feel-good stuff with school and work, trying to make a name for yourself, and getting into the job force? Volunteering can seem like just another thing to add to a growing list of to-dos. It's true, it can build your resume, or maybe you need to have volunteer experience to graduate, but this can make it feel like a chore.
All this has got me thinking, why should we volunteer? So I did some digging. What follows are a few of the facts I found and they have me convinced... let's see if you agree.
Here's the skinny on volunteering... does that phrase just roll off the tongue or is it my imagination?
1. Volunteering Helps People Feel Satisfied With Their Lives
This may seem like an odd benefit, but being involved in something that helps others, and sometimes even being able to see those effects directly paying off, can help one feel more satisfied with life.
2. Volunteering can Increase Your Levels of Self-Esteem, Self-Worth, and Self-Respect
The physical and mental gratifications you receive while volunteering contribute to an all-round better outlook on one's life. This may include seeing yourself in a light you never noticed before and in turn having a more positive sense of self-worth.
3. Volunteering Helps Fight off Depression
Even if you aren't struggling with depression, school can get a person into a funk sometimes. The studies say that volunteering fights off depression by helping us feel connected to something bigger than ourselves. The world of academia can easily get us into a state of isolation from what's going on outside of our little bubbles. Doing something with and for others helps to keep us real and grounded.
4. Volunteering can Lower the Risks of Hypertension
This is mainly contributed to by the increase in levels of physical activity that one participates in while volunteering. Whether you walk to the location, or you're playing with kids, or walking dogs, or just getting your heart rate up with a good laugh, it all plays a small role in lowering blood pressure!
5. Volunteering on a Consistent Basis can Lower Your Mortality Rate
Say what? Yes, that's right folks. For people who volunteer on average 200 hours2 per year (that works out to about 4 hours a week), their average life span can increase! This is especially effective amongst older people, so don't freak out thinking "There is no way I can volunteer up to 200 hours a year!" Start small, and work your way up with age, there is even evidence for similar effects on people committing only 100 hours per year!
The facts have got me convinced, but that doesn't change the reality that my time is limited. Are you feeling the same way? If so, keep reading because I've figured out a few ways to make volunteering easier.
First, start small. Even if you help out at one or two events each year at school it will begin to get you used to, and in the mindset of, volunteering. Each year, increase your time commitment or responsibilities and before you know it, you'll be running the show!
Second, volunteer somewhere career-related. This may seem obvious, but it's actually incredible the amount of people who don't dip their toes in the water before starting down a career path. This simple task could even save you from wasting thousands of dollars on school... You may find out that you hate your choice and totally reroute your life! All in all, this kind of volunteering can give you experience for your resume, help you see if you actually like or can handle your career choices, and expose you to people who can help you further your career.
Third, volunteer somewhere that is fun. Sounds simple, right? Or maybe it even sounds paradoxical... but what about walking or grooming dogs? That's a stress reliever too! Or taking some boys to a local park and teaching them some basketball skills? You can teach them more than that too by giving them a good role model to look up to. Who would have thought that volunteering can change a life?
Maybe you still don't believe me or you think I'm just plain crazy to suggest you use your time in this way, but I have listed the cold hard facts and they are in your favor! So seize the opportunity and get out there. Make a difference in someone else's life and you could end up changing your own.
Sneed, Rodlescia S., “A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults,” Psychology and Aging, Vol. 28(2013): 578-586
Thoits, Peggy A. and Lyndi N. Hewitt, “Volunteer Work and Well-Being,” Journal of Health and Social Behaviour 2(2001): 115-131