In light of this year’s Volunteers’ Week, people are talking about how volunteering can help improve our lives and the lives of others. The fact is we could always benefit from discovering more ways to improve our mental health and voluntary work is one of them. Not only can volunteering enrich the society, but it can also produce its own mental health benefits for the volunteers themselves. Psychology and health studies are increasingly showing the positive impact of voluntary work on the volunteers’ well-being. In fact, evidence suggests the benefits of volunteering are vast and touch all aspects of our life, from instilling a sense of purpose and improved cognitive activity to increased social interaction.
This is reported to be especially true if the deeper motivations behind volunteering derive from being others-focused as opposed to self-focused. Nevertheless, we have made a list of 5 concealed benefits to your mental health and well-being, that emerge from voluntary work.
The “Happiness Effect” Of Voluntary Work
Studies at the London School of Economics have indicated that the more we volunteer, the happier we are likely to be. The LSE has reported that individuals who give their time to support such causes have shown a 7% increase in feeling “very happy” compared to those who don’t volunteer. Moreover, the study showed a 12% increase for people who do voluntary work every 2-4 weeks and a 16% for those volunteering every week. Evidence also supports that weekly volunteering can cause the same levels of happiness as a life-changing salary boost would.
More specifically, the “happiness effect” is a brain phenomenon, referring to the increased release of the hormone, dopamine. Dopamine is the “pleasure” hormone released through certain activities causing euphoria in the prefrontal cortex and nucleus accumbens. Research also suggests that weekly volunteering, causes happiness levels comparable to a life-changing salary boost!
Volunteering Helps Prevent Depression
Experts suggest that volunteering can prevent depression or at the very least help control it. Getting involved in social activities and close interaction with others combats the depressive symptoms of isolation and feeling alone. Leading to increased symptoms of fulfillment, it boosts low mood and increases motivation. In addition, volunteers often develop a valuable support system, which helps battle depression even more.
Voluntary Work Helps Boost Self-Esteem
Volunteers experience a boost in their self-esteem due to higher feelings of purpose and usefulness. With every hour that you spend volunteering, there comes a fresh learning experience, new skills as well as transferable knowledge. Consequently, volunteers often have feelings of achievement and accomplishment that they would unlikely develop otherwise.
Volunteering Increases Brain Activity
Volunteering can increase brain activity, especially in older individuals. Research from John Hopkins University demonstrates that volunteering reverses declining brain functions in older adults. Moreover, volunteers reportedly experienced an increased activity in areas of the brain that improve cognitive abilities, better moods and mental health than those who didn’t.
Voluntary Work Reduces Stress Levels
With anxiety being a major cause for poor mental health, we could all do with a lot less stress in our lives. And voluntary work can be a useful coping tool, which significantly contributes to reduce stress. In fact, research shows that spending time with people, lowers stress due to cultivating meaningful connections. What’s more, working as a volunteer with animals has proven to be an even more effective way to reduce stress levels.
From increased empathy skills to boosting creativity, being a volunteer can certainly contribute a great deal to your mental and physical well-being. Yet as if these aren’t enough already, studies show that volunteers tend to live longer, healthier lives compared to those who don’t.
Volunteering can enhance creativity, it allows for the exploration of different interests, and it enriches hobbies such as working with animals, artistic skills, and fundraising. Likewise, volunteering opens the door for upskilling, professional growth as well as trying new things with new people. So, if there’s a way to help ourselves while helping others, voluntary work is an effective way to accomplish that. Go out into your community and offer your unique services. For top volunteering opportunities across the UK, visit Zoek and apply today to make a difference!
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