This month is National Volunteer Month. There’s no time like now to explore local opportunities to give back. Volunteering offers more than just a great way to spend your time and give back to those around you: it also presents several health benefits. Various research experiments have found that volunteering can instill a positive attitude, decrease senior loneliness and promote physical activity — all things that make a healthier person in the long run.
From that feel-good feeling to decreased cortisol levels, below are just a few ways in which selfless giving can change your life for the better.
Health Benefits of Volunteering
Improved Mental Health
Most everyone could use an extra boost of happiness and fulfillment. Volunteering is a great way to increase your overall mental health. Many altruists have cited post-volunteering happiness that comes from knowing you’ve helped a great cause. Several studies show your body releases endorphins during positive social contact, similar to the physical response after a hard workout. So really, a combination of light exercise and social philanthropy could be just what you need to fall in love with life again.
This works best if you choose to enlist yourself as help for something you already find interesting. Opportunities such as working with animals, helping peers or those less fortunate, or even giving your time to be a friend to someone who needs it can all elevate your mood and health.
Reduced Blood Pressure and Stress
Surprisingly, giving your time to charitable causes can be a great way to reduce stress through means of escapism. “Escaping” worries and issues isn’t always a bad thing, especially if it can improve your wellbeing and health. Volunteering brings about new social situations, including possibly making more friends! Forgetting about your troubles for a while, surrounded by friends and like-minded people, can help reduce stress held in the body.
By reducing your stress even temporarily, your blood pressure follows suit. Cortisol, the hormone released as an evolutionary response to stress, works to temporarily increase your blood pressure by causing your heart to beat faster and your blood vessels to narrow. Through giving your time to charitable causes, both of these factors can be greatly reduced.
Most opportunities require some level of physical activity, as well. By moving your body more, light forms of exercise necessary for your duties can also help with reduce stress and improve heart function.
Increased Cognitive Function
Volunteering promotes life-long learning and wards of cognitive decline. Whether it be learning new skills for duties, socializing with other helpers or exercising your memory for any task, philanthropy can help keep your mind young and active. It can act as regular exercise for both your body and mind.
These reasons are just the tip of the iceberg as to why volunteering is so beneficial for seniors. Giving back can help keep you young in mind, body and spirit. To learn more about the importance of this month, visit rewardvolunteers.coop/celebrate-national-volunteer-month. Visit www.volunteerflorida.org/ for opportunities to give back in your area.