Approximately 25 percent of American adults volunteer in charitable causes regularly. For the remaining 75 percent, what are they missing out on? Many find that volunteering increases gratitude, fulfillment, and connectivity in life. There is also plenty of research that suggests the benefits are even more significant. Let’s look at some of the mental and physical health benefits that studies have shown:
Decreased Risk of High Blood Pressure
One study showed a link between annual volunteering hours and a decreased risk of high blood pressure, i.e., hypertension, a condition that can lead to serious health complications like heart attack and stroke. So why not add volunteering to your usual medical regimen?
Of course, the study concludes that this health benefit requires 200 or more volunteer hours per year. If that number seems daunting, don’t cast this volunteering benefit aside just yet. Generally, people think of volunteering as a community-, school-, or church-based activity. Don’t forget about virtual opportunities and even those within your own family. Something as simple as spending time teaching someone your favorite hobby is volunteer work.
Research has suggested a connection between volunteer work and an increase in lifespan. Keep in mind that this benefit only evidences itself if your heart is in the right place (i.e., volunteering with the intent to help others). Volunteering for self-benefit won’t yield the same physical results.
The connection between volunteering and total wellness has also been studied. In a study conducted at Vanderbilt University, researchers identified the six areas of “well-being” as happiness, life satisfaction, self-esteem, sense of control over life, physical health, and depression. Not surprisingly, all six factors were positively impacted by volunteering.
It turns out that volunteering your time gives you the perception of having more time on your hands. Volunteering helps people feel accomplished in how they spent their time. That, in turn, gives them more confidence in their future ability to be productive with their time. The perception of more time helps people to build stronger connections with others. This also promotes happiness.
Many mental and physical health benefits of volunteering have been discovered through research. Hopefully, this data is the catalyst for those 75 percent of nonvolunteers to give it a try. But who knows? Once they get going on this volunteer journey, the health benefits may be secondary long-term benefits. More immediately, they may focus on the gratitude, fulfillment, and connectivity that come from helping those in need. And those are pretty motivating factors.