Volunteering for a Healthier You

It’s no ancient secret that volunteering in the community, or doing some sort of charity work, just makes you feel good! You feel content and satisfied because you’ve done something for someone, or a group of people, without any sort of material reward or monetary gain. Research has found though that there are actual health benefits to participating in volunteer and charity work. 

Let’s first look at the physical benefits charity work can provide you. If you are volunteering for something like a beach cleanup, or rebuilding houses, you often exert yourself as much as if you were doing an hours worth of exercise at the gym! If you find yourself volunteering somewhere outside, you are benefiting from Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a factor in preventing cancer, and boosting your immune system. The physical exertion that your volunteer work permits you to do, allows your body to release endorphins which in turn benefit your overall attitude. You may leave your day of charity work feeling accomplished, a little exhausted, and overall elated. Some great and active ways to volunteer are beach or roadside cleanups, rebuilding homes or schools, working with animals, volunteering with children, or anything else that gets you out and running around.   

There are many mental benefits to volunteering as well. Doing charity or volunteer work is often community based. You may find yourself interacting with hundreds of people, developing your sense of community which has been shown to decrease your risk of depression. When we are involved with the community around us, and interact with the people within it, we feel less isolated and alone. Volunteering most significantly gives people a sense of purpose. When you volunteer you are working towards a goal. This goal could be helping the environment, or a well deserving group of people who do not have the means to help themselves. A lot of people meet new friends, and even spouses while volunteering, which is of course an amazing emotional benefit. Therapists often suggest volunteer work to their patients as a natural remedy to feelings of depression, isolation, or a lost sense of self. 

A study known as the Longitudinal Study of Aging showed that frequent volunteers actually have lower mortality rates than individuals who do not participate in volunteer work. This proved to be true for many of the volunteers regardless of age, race, or gender. It is plain to see that volunteer work not only fulfills the needs of your community, but your body's needs as well. The next time you are on your computer, search for meaningful volunteer programs you would like to involve yourself in! You never know what good could come of it!

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