couple volunteering

There’s no better feeling than giving back to the community. Whether it's helping somebody less fortunate than you, spending time with animals or working to make the world a better place, whatever small difference you can make is incredibly valuable. What many people don't realize, though, is that giving your time and skills also gives you plenty back in return. There are many different, unique ways to volunteer that will make you feel like you are really making a difference. Here are just a handful of ways volunteering can enhance your life.

Make new friends.

Getting involved in a cause you care about is a great opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and meet new people with shared interests and passions. Often, these are people who you might not otherwise find yourself in contact with. This can lead to new friendships and a broader social support network that can become an enriching part of your life. Socially, the benefits of volunteering show up quickly and have long-term effects. Social interaction improves mental and physical health, according to Psychology Today. The benefits of consistent socializing include better brain function and lower risk for depression and anxiety. You also improve your immune system.

Strengthen old relationships.

Volunteering with friends and family can also help strengthen existing relationships by working together towards a shared goal. Volunteering creates stronger bonds between friends, family, and coworkers. People build closer relationships, better connections, and more powerful attachments to people when they work together. If you feel the need for deeper connections with other people, try volunteering. You might live longer and be happier.

You learn other people's perspectives.

Through volunteering, you'll learn new ways of living you may never have encountered before. You’ll cultivate empathy and understanding for your fellow humans, and you’ll break down the barriers you’ve built between you and other groups of people. You will break down walls made up of biases and prejudices, because you see them in a humane light.

Through observing others from this outside vantage point, you’ll start to see yourself in a clearer light too. When you look at life in a different way you notice the habits and quirks that form who you are. Most importantly, you give yourself the chance to change these if they no longer serve you. You might learn that someone else's way of living actually has applications in your own world.

You will learn new skills.

You might find a volunteer role that helps you consolidate skills you already have, or you might gain valuable experience and training in something completely different. Learning something new is a great way to enrich your life and feel inspired and motivated. If you're starting out in your career or think you might like to go in a different direction someday, volunteering is a great way to try out a new job path and explore a particular field, without making a long term commitment.

You learn to value resources more.

Many volunteer abroad programs are located in remote areas of developing or underdeveloped countries, and it might be an issue where you find limited resources during your project. However, with time, you learn to cope up with the shorthand of all such resources; such as water, electricity, food, transportation, and more. Instead, you learn to get creative and make the most of whatever is available. The same habit will follow you back home in your day-to-day life. You avoid wasting water while taking a shower or washing your car, for example. You stop wasting electricity by switching off the lights in the room which no one is using, and so on. You learn to respect that the resources you are blessed with are not always available to others.

You will increase your self-esteem.

When teens or young adults volunteer, they develop self-esteem, confidence, and feelings of self-worth. Imagine the benefits to volunteering today, where both girls and boys struggle with self-esteem issues. Consider the advantages of volunteering for teens and young adults with eating disorders, social anxiety, and depression. Volunteering could be life-changing and even life-saving for those that do it regularly. Even adults reap the benefits of increase self-esteem when they give back, so consider getting your teen out of the house and going to volunteer together.

Improve your physical health.

As well as boosting your mental and physical health, studies suggest a link between volunteering and physical health, contributing to lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan. This may be related to lower stress levels, more time outside the house, stronger social connections and more physical activity. With more people in traditional desk jobs, we live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before. The risks associated with less daily movement include back pain, disease, obesity, and more stress and mental illness. When we volunteer, even if it is not a physically demanding project, we still get up and get moving.

Older volunteers benefit the most from getting out of the house, engaging with others, and moving physically. Purpose and collaboration result in mental health improvements and a better outlook on life.

Studies indicate that senior volunteers experience the most physical benefit from their service, possibly because being active and engaged leads to more happiness. Older people who volunteer often feel younger and chronically ill people may have fewer symptoms and pain. Some research has even found that volunteers may have less heart disease.

When you spend your time volunteering you'll realize you have so much more time to spend and you'll give less of it away to things that do not fulfill you. When you give love to others you realize just how much love you have to give to the world, and how much love you have for yourself too. Volunteering not only makes the world a better place, but it makes you a better person. You will become that positive, caring member of society everyone strives to become.

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