Volunteering is something we have probably all been a part of in some way at some point in our lives. One of the best years of my life was dedicating a year to volunteering and serving others around the world. Perhaps, it was handing out food at a soup kitchen, volunteering at your local church, or helping with lawn maintenance in elderly neighborhoods. But did you know that there are many health benefits to volunteering?
Research has shown through various studies that there are several health benefits that come from volunteering that include increased mental and physical health, life satisfaction, and social well-being. Volunteering has also been found to help with a reduction in depression, stress, and loneliness. Many times volunteering occurs in groups where bonds can be made with others, friendships are formed, and comradery over a common goal occurs. Volunteering not only helps others, but it can also fulfill you, leaving you with more purpose in your life.
Oftentimes, people want to help out within their community but feel stuck on where to start.
Maybe they feel there is not enough time in the day or that they don’t have any skills to help
others in need. However, that is simply not the case. An hour a month dedicated towards volunteering can do wonders within your community and doing so with an open heart is all you need to bring. Here are some helpful ideas to get you started if you are thinking about volunteering in your community.
Visit a senior center. Seniors are a group of people that often feel aspects of loneliness and isolation. There are usually many senior or assisted living centers in your local community that would love to have visitors. Whether it’s showing up with games to play, arts and crafts, or just simply having a conversation can mean the world to a senior.
Volunteer as a coach. Children are who we should be investing in the most within our society. Oftentimes, little leagues are in need of people to step up and help coach different sports teams. Maybe you’re a mom or dad yourself. This is a great way to not only help your community but also create new and exciting memories with your own child. Perhaps your children are grown but you love the game of basketball or baseball. Scoreboard keepers and referees are always needed in local organizations.
Assist an animal rescue. Many people have a strong love for animals, especially ones who are in need. Animal rescue centers are a great place to give back to the animals who have given us so much in our own lives. It is a place where you can be part of connecting a family to their future pet. Places like these could always use an extra helping hand, so if you have a passion for animals then give this a try!
Whatever you decide to do when volunteering, remember that you can be part of the
change that you want to see. There are many people in your local community who are in need. Lean into what is needed and who needs help. You’ll be glad you did and your mental and physical health will be too.
By Austin Shugart, Ph.D., LPC