There might be only one thing experts agree on when it comes to how to live a long and happy life. A special diet? Nope. Type of exercise? Nuh-uh. Vitamin? If only. Surprisingly, volunteering is reported to slow the decline in health and functioning levels, and decrease depression and mortality rates.
The value of volunteering is important to whatever entity you choose — Girl Scouts, Special Olympics, the animal shelter, your kids’ school or your local church. They appreciate your time and the skills you bring. But the benefits to you personally are significantly greater.
“A lot of people get involved with volunteering because it feels good,” said Karen McLain, volunteer coordinator for Samaritan Evergreen Hospice. “But once they get involved, they find they get so much more back then they ever give.”
Many people volunteer when they are retired and want to give back, are between jobs or want to try out a new field. It is also a great way to obtain work-related experience and improve the quality of your resume. In fact, meeting new people and growing your network are two of the most difficult things to do when searching for a job, but the easiest and most natural parts of volunteering.
Improving your social life to make more meaningful connections is another benefit to volunteering. In spite of all the ways there are to keep in contact these days, a recent study reported people feel lonelier than ever before. Volunteering helps you connect with others and gives you a greater feeling of belonging within a community.
Mental and physical health are the other two areas with well-documented benefits. Studies of the physical health benefits include better health coping mechanisms, reduced cardiovascular risk factors, less hypertension, fewer hospitalizations, decreased depression.
Upward of a dozen studies have associated volunteering with a statistically significant longer life than for those who don’t volunteer. The bad news is only one in four adults are actively volunteering. So grab your two besties and volunteer.