More often than not, when a client comes in for services and expresses a need to find purpose in life, one of the suggestions I make is volunteering. Some look puzzled at the idea, while other’s seem to have that “ah ha,” moment. For most volunteering is a positive, productive and fulfilling experience.
In recent years studies have been conducted and show that volunteering can have a positive effect on your physical and mental health. For instance, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Very Well Mind, the benefits of Volunteering are as follows:
- Reduces Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic “Volunteering reduces stress and increases positive, relaxed feelings by releasing dopamine. By spending time in service to others, volunteers report feeling a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can have a stress-reducing effect.”
- Increases Happiness
In my experience; when in the service of others and most importantly when the activity I am participating in is intended to help others, I do tent to feel more positive and happy.
- Helps with the development of confidence
Volunteering can provide you the opportunity to be placed or assigned to partake in different roles, which can help in increasing your self-confidence and boost yourself esteem.
- Helps finds purpose
In my experience, I think what leads to a search for purpose is usually due to a shift or change in our lives. Sometimes when we are having issues adjusting or moving forward, we tend feel a loss of purpose. I truly believe that assisting others, especially in an areas that we are interested in or have experience in, helps us redefine and reignite our passions, which helps us rediscover our purpose.
- Provides more opportunity for social interaction, building friendships and engagement According to Very Well Mind, volunteering can help individuals meet new people with similar interests, which in turn can create long lasting friendships. I find this to be very true, as I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most interesting and friendliest people that I have every had the chance to meet by volunteering.
- Helps manage blood-pressure
Studies show that “High blood pressure is a key health indicator because it contributes to heart disease, stroke, and premature death.” In addition, further research shows that those that volunteer on a regular basis are less at risk of having high blood pressure.
Finding a place to volunteer can seem like daunting task, but I recommend first considering what your interest are and utilizing that as a starting place.
Below is a list of possible ideas and/or locations:
- Senior Centers
- Participating in Clean Ups
- Food Bank