Volunteering is a great way to make a difference in your community- and your personal well-being. In addition to the satisfaction from giving to others, and the social connections you can make through volunteering, studies show that it also has a positive impact on your mental and physical health.
A 2007 research report form the Corporation for National and Community Service links volunteering and health – those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life.
A 2013 research paper published in BMC Public Health found that volunteering is associated with a 22 percent reduction in the risk of dying and increased well-being.
n 2013, Psychology and Aging published a study citing that volunteers over the age of 50 were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers of the same age.
If you’d like to add volunteering to your healthy lifestyle, here are four easy steps to get started:
- Determine a cause that is important to you. What do you care about? Who would you like to help? How can your talents benefit others? Here are just a few idea starters:
- Coaching sports
- Initiating or participating in community projects like cleanups and gardens
- Making, delivering, and serving food
- Mentoring, teaching, and tutoring
- Figure out the amount of time you’re willing and able to donate, and how far you can travel—overextending yourself in your volunteer plans will only add to your stress, rather than decrease it! There are volunteer gigs to fit every schedule, and some of them don’t even require you to leave your home.
- Find an organization that aligns with your priorities. Try using a free matching tool like Get Connected Erie. Or if you know what you want to do, contact the organization directly to find out what volunteer opportunities are available.
- Invite your family and friends to join you. Many organizations (like the Y!) offer volunteer opportunities for the whole family to make an impact in their community.