Volunteering is GREAT for Your Health

Most people subscribe to the notion that volunteering is a selfless behavior that benefits the greater good. However, studies show the benefits go beyond altruism and actually affect our health.
Both physical and mental effects from lowered blood pressure to reducing feelings of depression are linked to philanthropic habits. Though it is still an emerging field of study, research suggests that oxytocin (the hormone that promotes feelings of love, bonding and well-being) spikes when giving time and talents.1 Here is a list of other benefits that result from volunteering.2
1) Reduces stress: Regardless if one works with people or animals, meaningful connections can refocus attention from self concerns and worries onto someone or something else. This results in less stress and improved moods.
2) Combats depression: Volunteering keeps one’s mind distracted from destructive and negative thinking. It can increase motivation by providing a sense of accomplishment. One might think “If I can do this, what else is possible?!”
3) Prevents feelings of isolation: Volunteering provides the opportunity to make new friends and grow one’s social network and professional circles. People of all backgrounds and views come together over common interests. The key is to merely show up and be open to meeting others. It’s possible to create friendships that can last long after the volunteering ends. A volunteer activity can be a catalyst for those who are shy and introverted to open up and shine.
4) Increases confidence: Some volunteering activities require learning new skills. Acquiring a new ability coupled with being in an unfamiliar environment can provide mental stimulation that would otherwise not be experienced. Gaining a new skill set invokes a sense of pride, which can lead to a more positive view of oneself.
5) Gives a sense of purpose and meaning: Regardless of one’s age, volunteering can give meaning, purpose, and fulfillment beyond what a day to day job can give. Whether it’s work in a routine environment or due to a tragedy or disaster, the willingness to do what’s needed can put things in perspective and help grow compassion for others while expanding our minds.
6) Ignites passion: Volunteering is also a fun way to explore different interests. It can be an energizing escape from a daily routine, especially if that routine is sitting at a computer all day. Look for opportunities that are in different spaces and have opportunities to do different things.
7) Makes you happy: As humans we naturally congregate to be part of a community. It’s impossible to not be an impact to your community when you volunteer. Knowing the world is better provides immense pleasure making us happy, happy, happy.
LaFASA has a plethora of ways to “increase oxytocin” for anyone who would like to donate their time and talents. If you like books and research, our legal department might be a good fit. Our Campus Coordinator has engaging internships for college students. Our outreach program offers avenues to be creative through social media, design, podcasting, and beyond. We would love videography help in our outreach efforts at this time. We are hoping to create videos for our website. If you like organizing, there is opportunity through our resource library. At LaFASA we are a personable bunch who would love to work with anyone interested. Visit our website for more information and more available opportunities. Lafasa.org/main/volunteer

Volunteer wearing teal!

Sources:
1 http://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a37nvk/volunteering-is-the-best-kept-secret-for-mental-health-stressweek2017?

2 http://www.ableto.com/resources/mental-health-benefits-of-volunteering/

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