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How Volunteering Improves Mental Health

By Angelo Narciso

July 7, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has alarmingly increased the number of people suffering from anxiety, depression and stress. One way of managing one’s mental health is through volunteering.

“Helping others is a natural high our brains are wired for.” Kaleigh Rogers noted in her article in Vice that “Volunteering is the best kept secret for mental health.”

In fact, Rodlescia Sneed of the University of Michigan observed that volunteering is “linked to improvements in factors like depressive symptoms, purpose in life, and feelings of optimism.”

It helps reduce feelings of depression

According to the article of Stephanie Watson, the Executive Editor of Harvard Women's Health Watch, “Volunteering helps people who donate their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression”.

In his Skills4Good Spotlight, Alex Markos of Shell Canada expressed that volunteering provides him with tremendous personal growth by exposing him to diverse perspectives while contributing to a cause that he is passionate about.

His views are supported by research on the power on volunteering. Volunteering opens doors to meet new friends, develop better behaviour towards others, and boost one’s confidence and self-worth. It establishes a deeper connection to the community, a breakthrough to learn new passion and skills which overall leads to a happier disposition and more positive mindset.

As Sneed explained, “Volunteering is beneficial because it allows [you] to focus on something else for a while and may provide useful perspective - your problems don't seem as bad when you're working with people who don't have enough to eat.”

It helps improve physical well-being

In a Harvard research study, there appears to be a strong correlation between volunteering and positive health outcomes. It reported that who engage in volunteering are 47% more likely to get cholesterol checks and 30% more likely to get flu shots. Also, volunteers had 38% fewer overnight hospital visits than non-volunteers. It also revealed that volunteers take care of themselves more, lowering the risk of developing high blood pressure, heart diseases, strokes and mortality rate.

It helps people strengthen human relationships

According to PsychCentral, volunteering is a great way to reach out to those who are most vulnerable during this pandemic. It provides an avenue to engage for you to engage with family and friends in important social causes. Working together with them allows you to appreciate each other’s competencies and strengthen your close friendships even more.

During this unprecedented time, volunteering virtually is the way to go. Like Alex who serves on a nonprofit board, you have so many opportunities to virtually share your skills and experiences while making a social impact in your community.

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