Volunteering is not just about being the difference maker and having that good deed imprinted on your soul, it can also be good for your mind and body as well; providing many benefits to both mental and physical health. It can increase your self-confidence, self-awareness, and provide a healthy boost to your esteem, your immune system, (by getting the blood flowing) and overall life satisfaction.
I volunteer at a few different things, and one of those is being a part of a peer mentorship program. As a Mentor my job is to serve the role of an experienced and trusted advisor to the Mentee, but I have come to learn that I can benefit from this relationship as well; just as I can from any peer related action through volunteering. This can be true of so many volunteering duties… not just the mentoring that I do.
There is the social aspect of meeting people, hanging out, and communicating with like-minded individuals that can stimulate the brain and the body in positive and healthy ways. And being with others can definitely help when battling things like depression or isolation. Getting out of the house and into a different environment, especially if spending a little time outdoors, is helpful. Volunteering can also lead you to engaging in physical activities that you might not do or consider otherwise
While we all have different reasons for doing what we chose, one of the keys for attaining health benefits from volunteering is to do it for the right reasons. A 2012 study in the journal Health Psychology noted that those who volunteered with some regularity lived longer, but only if their intentions were truly altruistic. In other words, they had to be volunteering to help others—not to make themselves feel better; which kind of sounds strange when the health benefits are actually yours… Just goes to show you that putting others first does serve you best, in certain respects.
Being someone who has volunteered himself, a Coordinator of volunteering activities, and being a recipient of volunteer acts, I see and feel the positive vibes. The smiles, the sighs of contentment, the laughter and camaraderie. It comes from both sides, receivers and givers. Volunteering and healthy living… they definitely coexist for all involved.
Aristotle may have said it best, that the essence of life is “To serve others and do good.”
By Mark Koning
Mark is the Communications & Administration Coordinator with the AIDS Committee of York Region. Mark is also an Author and Blogger of Challenging Barriers and The BIST Blog. (Brain Injury Society of Toronto)