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Why Volunteering Is Good For Your Health

by | Oct 13, 2023 | Volunteer Opportunities, Traveling The World, Let's Play

We all dream of the time when we can retire and finally get to start checking off the items on our Bucket List. The first activity that we post-corporate employees want to do is just relax, spend more time with our friends and family, and not set an alarm clock. But once we have had a chance to rest and restore our health, those of us who have left a long career usually need to find new meaning in our life. All those hours at the office may have left very little time or energy for volunteering, but once we are able to have life on our own terms we often look for ways to give back to our community and our planet.

Volunteering for something you believe in, such as keeping your local community safe and clean, fostering an animal, or working with disadvantaged children will give you a sense of pride. Studies have shown that volunteering helps you feel more socially connected and lessens the feelings of loneliness you might have when you are no longer surrounded by co-workers. You also have the opportunity to build a support system based on common commitment and interests, which also boosts feelings of connectedness.

Immortality is to live your life doing good things, and leaving your mark behind.

Another aspect of volunteering is the decrease in stress that you will probably feel because helping someone else diverts your attention away from tension-producing patterns of behavior. It replaces those patterns with a sense of purpose, enhances positive emotions, and increases your confidence level. When we stop thinking about our own problems and instead focus on something other than ourselves, the stress surrounding our own issues melts away. Lowering the stress on our body improves our health while we are improving the outcome of those people and projects we are assisting.

The Physical Benefits of Volunteering

I surprised to find when I was gathering research for this article there are over 19 million hits for articles on how volunteering has positive impacts on our health that go beyond mental wellbeing. A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with such physical health improvements as lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. A study by Carnegie Mellon University showed that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure than non-volunteers.

Often the activities involved in volunteering increases the physical activity of people that might not otherwise be active. Increased physical activity helps to lower our stress level, which then contributes to lowering our blood pressure. People who volunteer for activities like tutoring, reading to aging adults, or other activities that stimulate the mind will get the added health advantage of maintaining memory and thinking skills. Harvard School of Public Health did a research study that showed that volunteers tend to have a lower mortality rate as well as better functional ability. The study also showed people who volunteered spent 38 percent fewer nights in the hospital than non-volunteers.

One interesting finding when studying the positive health effects of volunteering is we apparently need to have the right reason in mind when we volunteer. A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology found that participants who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. So, volunteering just because you want to get out of the house may not be help your health, but doing it because you are truly interested in helping others will elevate your health physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Five Reasons to Give of Yourself
1. Make a Difference

Giving your time for a special cause, whether you do so in your neighborhood or in a foreign country, gives you an opportunity to have a say every day about the kind of community and world you want to live in. You get to be a part of something bigger than yourself, something more soul satisfying than your daily existence. By volunteering, you get to use your sense of civic responsibility for the greater good. There are so many causes that need your help and without your willingness to give of your time and talents, people, animals and the environment suffer more.

2. Give Back To a Cause You Believe In

Many people aren’t really sure where to start once they are ready to volunteer. Look into your heart and find what moves you, feel where your passions lie. Do you have a love for animals? Your local animal shelter always needs people to walk and play with their shelter animals. Perhaps you care about keep our environment clean. Practically all cities sponsor street, park, and beach cleanups to make sure their cities stay safe and sanitary. Some people want to use their newly found post-corporate time to join a non-profit group or visit care homes for the elderly. Whatever you choose, let your actions be led from a place of passionate intention. When you are moved by your passions, you are more invested in your chosen cause and as a result, the impact you make will be that much bigger.

3. Change Someone’s Life

I think we all get to a point in life where we wonder if we are still making a difference in the world. Rest assured, when you volunteer for a cause your actions whether big or small WILL impact someones life. Perhaps you want to teach English in a foreign country or help teach people a trade or skill they can use to enhance their quality of life. Helping someone break the cycle of poverty not only affects their own life but can affect future generations by improving the quality of life of their children and grandchildren.

Using your skills to mentor others is another great way to use your years of experience and knowledge to pass on to younger generations. I often mentor young women entrepreneurs that no longer want to be part of someone elses goals and agenda, but want to express their own creative, brilliant ideas on their own terms. My many years of corporate life allows me to assist them in forming their own, women-owned small business and guide them on their journey as entrepreneurs. Post-corporate employees have so much wisdom and insight to pass on and mentoring either young entrepreneurs or people just entering the workforce is a great way to make sure they have the skills they need to be successful.

4. See the World

One of the many joys of your post-corporate life is finally getting to take all those trips you dreamed about when you were stuck at the office. You might be set on doing a Club Med vacation to the Caribbean but what about signing up for voluntourism trip? Volunteering while touring a new country or city allows you to both see the world and travel with a purpose. You might get to live in a remote community in Cambodia or assist with new turtle hatchings on a pristine beach. Or perhaps you will do some wildlife conservation, paint and renovate old buildings, conduct underwater fish surveys, or help plant trees to restore part of a rainforest. Participating in voluntourism gets you off the typical tourist track to discover a side of the world beyond the glitzy brochures and have a culturally immersive experience.

If you have not done a lot of traveling, this might seem daunting when you imagine flying to a 3rd world country where you dont know the language and might not have all the amenities you are used to at home. All volunteer organizations have amazing teams of people and hire local guides to make sure you are safe and well-integrated into your chosen project. Most voluntourism programs also give you days off to go sightseeing in the surrounding area and youll be with like-minded people to share your adventures. Giving back to those less fortunate and getting to see the world at the same time is truly the best of both worlds. Pick your passion project and set your sails to the wind!

5. Get Inspired

Retiring from corporate life can sometimes leave you with a sense of too much time on your hands and a lack of fulfilment. You may not know what you really want to do next, such as perfect your golf game, start an online business, or hike in the Swiss Alps. Adding volunteerism to your list of achievements as a post-corporate employee can put your life into perspective and inspire you to come up with all sorts of creative ideas. You might even come up with a new life calling that really sets your soul ablaze! Volunteering lets you interact with people that are probably going to be very different that your former workmates, lending a broader view of life, and giving you insight into different cultures and world views. The inspiration that you receive from volunteering will probably help you shift your mindset on your own life problems.?You might just realize that the next chapters of your life will be the ones that actually define you.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. Gandhi

There are so many more fantastic reasons to get yourself motivated and find a volunteering project that really moves your heart. It is one of the best ways to make sure you make an impact on the world and leave it a little better place than when you entered it. It’s also a proven strategy to become a happier, healthier, and more well-rounded person. With so many positive reasons to volunteer, its almost a form of self-care.

To get you started, here is a list of a few volunteer programs:

 

Yours In Vibrant Wellbeing,

Joan Brackin

Joan is a triple-degreed scientist and engineer and a Certified Integrative Medicine Health Coach. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast and the owner of the amazing Checkers the Shiz Tzu. Joan founded the Someday Is Now 501(c)(3) organization. She can be contacted at info@cognistrength.com

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