When you volunteer your time to help others, not only are you benefitting those in need, but you are also enhancing your own well-being. It has been found that volunteering can lead to many mental health benefits, including a greater sense of happiness and self-worth. Volunteers and researchers alike will attest to the numerous positive mental health effects of volunteering, making it a great activity for anyone looking to get involved.
Joette Decore is an advocate for community involvement and volunteering and actively raises money for various causes. In 2019, Joette helped to raise more than $50,000 for Alzheimer’s. Located in Edmonton, Alberta, she is a strategy, corporate development, and human resources executive and consultant. She is heavily involved in her community as a volunteer and a member of several professional boards. She shares her insight into how volunteering can improve mental health.
The Reduction of Stress and Anxiety
Volunteering your time with a charity can go a long way towards reducing stress and anxiety. In turn, this can help address depression and other mental health conditions. Participating as a volunteer contributes to stress and anxiety reduction in many ways. First and foremost, having something significant to focus on benefits volunteers by taking their minds off of everyday stressors. As well, the sense of accomplishment and reward that is experienced as a result of volunteering can boost one’s mood and improve general disposition. For those looking to make the most of their volunteering efforts — the more time you spend donating your skills and energy, the more you will benefit. However, studies have shown that 100 to 200 hours of volunteer work per year is ideal. This amount of participation provides maximum mental and physical health benefits. Joette Decore notes that to experience mental health benefits, the volunteer activity should be something enjoyable and fulfilling. Therefore, when choosing a volunteer opportunity, be sure it is something that is meaningful and worthwhile to you.
Providing a Sense of Purpose
Helping others provides volunteers with a sense of purpose and fulfillment. Witnessing the outcome of one’s efforts and the positive impact that they have on the lives of people and animals in need can be extremely fulfilling and meaningful. As a result of this sense of accomplishment, many volunteers report that they experience increased satisfaction in life. In addition to subjective feelings, research has demonstrated that physical changes in hormones, including increased levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter known to affect feelings of satisfaction, occur as a result of helping others. Joette Decore suggests that the sense of purpose and fulfillment volunteers feel can improve both mental and physical health.
Joette Decore on Building Social Connections
The ability to create meaningful connections with others in the community through volunteer work provides additional mental health benefits. For individuals who are new to an area, recently retired, or looking for new friends, volunteering can be extremely beneficial. Social isolation can be hard on mental health and volunteering for a charity can help you connect with like-minded people and build lasting relationships. Joette Decore indicates that the opportunity to build social connections results in a sense of belonging, an important aspect of positive mental health.