Volunteering: How Helping Others Can Improve Your Health

by on August 11th, 2010 at 7:00 am

Have you ever considered volunteering? Perhaps you already participate and are familiar with the multitude of benefits it can provide, including improving both emotional and physical health!

Or maybe you are one of the many people who feels overworked and over-scheduled, and that making time for families and friends is challenging enough, let alone making time for strangers! However, you may be surprised that a little volunteering goes a long way, and may help provide balance in other areas of your life.

Myth #1: “I don’t have time to volunteer.”

While of course you can’t compromise your career or other mandatory obligations, all work and no play is a recipe for disaster and lead to or exacerbate health problems such as depression– so while planning your social calendar, consider adding in volunteering activities! Get your kids or your friends involved with you, and mix in a few activities on your own so you can reach out and make new friends. Studies show that solid friendships are good for your overall well-being!

Pick a few areas that interest you and search for local groups in your area – there are a plethora of organizations that are both social and charitable. For those who can’t commit to a weekly or monthly meeting, search for event-type activities such as beach cleanups or fundraisers.

Even if you just give up one Saturday morning a month or make a small donation, the connections you will make can build lasting friendships and provide excellent networking opportunities, which can alleviate many common daily stressors. Added bonus: anything involving exercise will help keep you physically fit to help fight obesity, especially marathons, which require training.

Myth #2: “I don’t have any special skills to offer.”

There really is a need for almost any interest- if you’re having trouble getting started, ask your friends or family to help you identify all the little great things you do that are probably being overlooked. Maybe you’re a natural born athlete- get involved with a little league team. Love animals? Shelters everywhere would love your assistance walking dogs. Great with computers? Help a charity design their monthly newsletter. As the ideas start rolling, just be sure not to get too carried away and become overcommitted. Quality, not quantity, is the key for making volunteering a lasting, fulfilling and beneficial aspect for your life!

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