How Volunteering Positively Impacts Your Mental Well-Being

By Mauricio Gonzales posted 01-16-2021 09:11


Volunteering can be extremely beneficial, especially during the pandemic, helping reduce anxiety, stress, and developing a sense of community. It's also a great way to expand your network.

— GOOD DESIGN™ Illustration / Laura Mareli, Creative Director 

Suppose you've ever served food at a soup kitchen or lent a helping hand at an animal rescue shelter. In that case, you're likely familiar with the mental and emotional boost that comes from contributing to a noble cause. Even though most believe the primary purpose of volunteering is to help people in need, there's no denying that the joy you bring others trickles down to you as well. That's why those who volunteer regularly tend to experience a more profound sense of joy and fulfillment in their everyday lives. Volunteering is associated with a number of powerful mental health benefits.


If you're thinking about joining a cause that's close to your heart, you'll have the opportunity to benefit from reduced stress levels, a greater sense of belonging, and many other advantages.


Here are the top mental health benefits of volunteering and how they can enrich various aspects of your life.


Minimized Stress and Anxiety
When we're feeling stressed or anxious about something, it's typically a result of rumination or the act of thinking deeply about something that's causing us unhappiness. The most effective way to avoid rumination is to keep our minds engaged.

When we shift our focus away from our problems, we help minimize the feelings of stress and anxiety associated with those concerns.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to keep our minds engaged for a prolonged period of time. Because this activity forces us to dedicate our full attention to our work, we don't have the mental energy to dwell on our problems anymore. Instead, we're directing all of our energy toward another person or group of people who relies on our help.


Increased Happiness
Volunteering is also a great way to give our brain a dopamine boost. Also known as the "feel-good hormone," dopamine is a crucial contributor to our brain's reward system. When our dopamine levels spike, we instantly feel happier and better about ourselves overall. Choosing to volunteer can make a significant difference in our personal happiness and allow us to feel more content in our day-to-day lives.


Greater Sense of Belonging
Humans are innately social creatures. Belonging to a group is a major contributing factor to our overall happiness. When we feel isolated or lonely, this can severely stunt our growth and make us more susceptible to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. To promote a greater sense of life satisfaction, it's crucial to feel welcomed and accepted by group members.
Participating in volunteer opportunities is a highly effective way to achieve a heightened sense of belonging.

Not only are other volunteers likely to be kind and welcoming to us, but there's also a good chance that they share the same values and interests as us. This congruence in beliefs and morals is a robust foundation for a lasting relationship.


A More Fulfilling Life
Too many people feel lost or disappointed because their lives lack a clear purpose. This can lead to more serious troubles down the road, such as depression or anxiety. Fortunately, choosing to volunteer can help remedy this issue. When we volunteer, we have the unique opportunity to witness the fruits of our labor regularly. Whether we're donating clothes to a homeless shelter or providing relief after a natural disaster, we know that our work has a higher purpose that positively impacts those around us.
It's also worth noting that we don't need to make a monumental difference to lead a fulfilling life.

Even if the contribution we make is as simple as giving someone a reason to smile, we'll walk away knowing we made a positive impact.


Enhanced Cognitive Skills
Volunteering can boost our brainpower as well. In many cases, volunteering enables us to develop new skills that we would never have learned on our own. Whether we're cooking meals for the hungry or knitting scarves to keep the homeless warm, there are endless opportunities to further our growth and development through volunteer work.

Not only do these new skills help keep our minds sharp, but they also might pave the way for a lifelong hobby.

No matter what types of activities you engage in when volunteering, be sure to stay open to any new opportunities that might cross your path.

Even if you decide that a particular activity isn't right for you, you'll still have learned something valuable to help you later on in life.


Increased Professional Growth
Job satisfaction is a vital aspect of our overall happiness in life. When we're feeling unfulfilled in our careers, this can directly affect other aspects of our lives, from our relationships to our overall mental health. Suppose you've reached a point in your professional life where you're eager to explore new opportunities and forge a different path. In that case, volunteering can help give you the fresh start that you need.

The right volunteer opportunity can introduce you to a brand new field that you might not have discovered otherwise.

If you do happen to stumble upon an alternative path that interests you more than the one you're currently on, volunteering can help you hone your skills until you're prepared to begin your new career. No matter where it ends up taking you, the simple act of volunteering can help establish the building blocks for lifelong job satisfaction.

Volunteering During COVID-19
Even in the midst of a global pandemic, volunteers worldwide are working hard to make our world a better place. One of the best parts about Connect is that it has adapted to the current global state, providing volunteers a forum to discuss how they can continue helping out without exposing themselves to the coronavirus. If you are interested in learning more about this approach, sign up and Connect today!

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