In a world inundated with Internet users who are snapping "selfies" all day, the natural, altruistic human has taken an evident hit. We will notice we are surrounded by countless ways to help others when we look beyond ourselves. With more than 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the US, the various opportunities to give back to the community are limitless.
When you choose to serve your community you feel the positive effects of volunteer-work benefitting you emotionally and mentally. Of the various reasons we choose to volunteer, nothing can replace that altruistic sense of self-worth and accomplishment derived from offering a few hours of your time to help those in need. _But did you know volunteering could benefit your health as well?_
Here are 5 reasons why doing good feels good.
A collective group of studies have actually found links between donating your time and improving your health. While more physical volunteer work provides obvious health benefits that stem from physical activity, many studies are pointing to a decreasing likelihood of poor health in the latter years of our lives based on the annual hours of volunteer work we accomplish.
Combat Chronic Pain Do you suffer from chronic pain conditions including sciatica, bursitis or arthritis? When you're having a good day, take time to help those who suffer from similar conditions at a local hospital or clinic. Serving as a peer volunteer can lead to decreased disability and pain intensity.
Heighten Heart HealthVolunteering can have positive affects on the heart. Patients who volunteered after a heart attack noticed decreased depression and despair. Both of which are factors that lead to repeat attacks, even mortality.
Decrease Depression Surrounding yourself with others who are in need can help increase your serotonin levels and release endorphins. Boost your mood and fight against stress and anxiety by offering support to others around you.
Lengthen your life Studies show that volunteers may have an increase in longevity and "providing support was found to have a stronger relationship with longevity than receiving support from others," says Stephanie Brown, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University in New York.
Contagion for CareMany scientists believe that the "helpers high" is caused by the release of the hormone oxytocin when giving back. This hormone, commonly known for its release during sex and breastfeeding, generates feelings of warmth and an increased human bond. The science behind the "pay it forward" attitude shows how the ripple effect of volunteering inspires others to do the same.
While these added benefits to our health are a great reason to enlist our time, the study notes that those who volunteer out of obligation don't gain the same effects on health as those who do it for selfless and self-effacing motives. The other caveat to improving your well-being while volunteering is based on the time put therein. "Individuals must meet a 'volunteering threshold' in order to receive the positive health outcomes from volunteering." What's the magic number you might ask? 100 hours annually, or one to two hours per week.
Ready to put those volunteer hours to action? Check out www.justserve.org, a new volunteer matchmaking service to help you find volunteer opportunities in your local communities.