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May 20, 2024

How volunteering can help you grow personally and professionally

Volunteering Wellness

Content sponsored by IBC-Native-052024-Volunteering

Purchased - A group of volunteers together petra012015/

Volunteering is a great way to help those in need and give back to your community, but it can also do wonders for your personal and professional life! It can help you find a sense of purpose, boost your physical and mental well-being, and open doors in your career. Here’s how:

Connecting with People

Volunteering offers a chance to develop friendship with people who share common interests with you. Aside from being enjoyable, having friends is important for your mental well-being. They provide emotional support, which protects you from depression; boosts your confidence; and can help alleviate the stresses of everyday life.

Volunteering also gives you an opportunity to engage with people from many different backgrounds, allowing you to learn other perspectives. That can benefit you both socially and professionally.

Finding Purpose

Lending a hand to others can help provide you with a sense of purpose. That’s good under any circumstances but it can be particularly beneficial if you’re retired or have just gone through a difficult life event. In fact, if you’ve recently experienced a personal setback, volunteering is probably one of the best things you can do. Serving others can keep you from focusing on your own struggles and can provide additional perspective during times of adversity.

Boosting happiness

Beyond serving as a distraction from your problems, helping other people can trigger the release of chemicals in your brain that promote feelings of positivity. Volunteering also appears to make people happier in the long term and produces other mental health benefits, such as reducing stress, anger, and anxiety.

Improving physical health

A 2015 study found that middle-aged people who did volunteer work were less likely to have abdominal fat and high blood glucose than those who didn’t. The volunteers also had healthier levels of HDL cholesterol, which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. Older volunteers were also less likely to have high blood pressure than their non-volunteer counterparts.

A 2020 study examined the relationship between volunteering and health in almost 13,000 U.S. adults. Over a four-year period, the researchers found that people who committed to more than 100 hours of volunteering per year had a lower risk of death.

Young people also have a lot to gain from volunteering. In 2013, a study found that high school students who volunteered showed more favorable markers related to heart disease risk compared to their peers who were instructed to postpone volunteering for a semester.

Gaining professional advantages

From a professional standpoint, volunteering can benefit your career in numerous ways.

For starters, volunteer work looks great one your résumé! It showcases positive traits like purpose, self-motivation, and a desire to contribute to your community. And if you find yourself between jobs, volunteering can keep your resume from having a gap.

Volunteering can also help you make new professional contacts and learn about opportunities, either in your current field or in other fields that you may find interesting. The people you volunteer with can also serve as credible references.

Learning new skills is another valuable benefit you get from helping others. Some volunteer opportunities may even provide you with training that would usually cost a lot of money. And if you’re thinking of making a career switch, volunteering can be a smart way to experience another field of work to see if you enjoy it.

Another important benefit of volunteer work is that it often forces you to step outside of your comfort zone. This helps you learn new ways to deal with the problems you encounter and keeps your brain sharp as you age.

Getting started

An easy way to find volunteer activities is through your existing network, such as your employer and any local or religious organizations you belong to. Friends and family may be able to suggest volunteer activities they think would suit you. Your neighborhood or municipality may also have volunteer activities available.

Websites like VolunteerMatch are great resources for finding volunteer opportunities close to where you live. Some even have activities you can do from home!

Whatever you choose to do, you’re sure to reap a multitude of personal and professional benefits whenever you’re dedicating your time to helping others.

Happy volunteering!

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