Volunteering is a commitment of personal time and energy to help make a difference in the lives of others. Many people volunteer with the intention to help those in need and most times not thinking about what's in it for them, but there are health benefits associated with volunteering that are good for the mind and body, no matter your age.
Volunteering may enhance a person’s social networks to lower stress and reduce the risk of disease. You will feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, which can have a stress-reducing effect. The social contact aspect of helping and working with others can have an effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves stress better than a meaningful connection to another person.
Research has shown that volunteering leads to lower rates of depression because you are in regular contact with others. Volunteering increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common interests - both of which have been shown to decrease depression.
Volunteer activities get you thinking and moving. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks and stressors, are less likely to develop high blood pressure and have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease.
Researchers have measured hormones and brain activity of volunteers and discovered that being helpful to others delivers pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel. And a study published earlier this year found that the more meaning people felt in their lives, the more likely they were to remain in better health.
Researchers also found that regular volunteering, versus occasional volunteering, provided the most benefits to mental health.
Volunteers at Franciscan Health come from a variety of backgrounds, but share the common desire to help others. They are men, women, teenagers, former patients or employees, professionals, retirees, homemakers and students. They volunteer for different reasons: to explore healthcare careers, stay active during retirement, help with fundraising or patient support, and put their free time to good use.
Are you interested in becoming a volunteer? Join Franciscan Health’s team of volunteers, and make a difference in the lives of patients and staff. Sign up to volunteer at a Franciscan Health hospital near you.
By Ariel Anderson
Social Media Specialist