The Personal Benefits of Volunteer Work

It may sound paradoxical, but volunteer work can be a selfish thing. Yes, I said that right: volunteer work can be selfish. Now, let me explain what I mean. Obviously, your main motivation in volunteering your time or money to a cause should be selfless– you should be compelled to support a cause not to make yourself feel better, but to help someone else. But that doesn’t mean you can’t reap the benefits of improving your own life through volunteer work. Volunteering does wonders for your health and happiness, and anyone who claims otherwise would be lying.

Volunteer work is much older than the modern conception we’re familiar with- according to Forbes, the power of volunteering has been documented for the past 2,500 + years- and that’s just what we have on record! The etymology of the word philanthropy can be traced back to to the ancient Greek word, philanthropia, meaning “love of humanity.” When you think about it, it’s human nature to love and sympathize with another human being. Volunteering, according to its most basic meaning, is as old as humanity itself, and the reason it’s stuck around so long is because it’s so beneficial. Here are some of the incredible personal benefits one can get from investing time into volunteer work:

Develops leadership skills

One thing people may not think about when they volunteer is that it can actually transform you into a better leader and, consequently, advance your career opportunities. Skills-based (or pro bono) volunteering where a company or individual offers their professional skills to a nonprofit organization in order to help them improve their business practices is a way to put your skills to use while picking up new ones. For instance, if you volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen, you can learn about social justice issues. If you volunteer at a hospital or nursing home, you can learn more about the medical field. The valuable new skills you develop in the field you’re working in can be applied to your professional life to help advance your career. Not to mention, volunteer experience looks great on a resume in that in demonstrates to employers that you value the life experiences volunteer work affords, even if you don’t make a monetary profit off it.

Connects you with your community

There’s really no better way to feel connected to your community than finding a local organization to get involved with. This is why volunteering is so widely suggested to anyone moving to a new area. Whether it’s helping a child with their homework, holding a senior citizen’s hand and listening to them as they tell you about their life, or offering a warm meal and a smile to a homeless person, these acts may only occupy a small margin of your life (a few hours here and there), but to the people you’re giving your time to, it can be everything. It can be the difference between receiving an A or a B on an assignment or something as powerful as a reminder that they’re not alone with whatever adversity they face. Volunteer work allows you to develop meaningful relationships with the people you assist, and it is also an opportunity to work side-by-side with other community members on shared projects, such as building a home or refurbishing a community park.

Good for your physical and mental health

Lastly, volunteering is just plain good for your wellbeing, both mental and physical. According to healthguide.org, researchers have found that volunteering combats depression and boosts your overall happiness. It also gives you a sense of purpose and helps you to put your own problems into perspective. Volunteering is also therapeutic and can ease stress and anxiety; in helping someone else, you can take your mind off your own worries, if only temporarily. On the physical side, volunteer work gets you out of your house and keeps you active, so it can be great for your health. Studies have found that those who volunteer experience a lower overall mortality rate than those who do not, and it’s attributed to reduced symptoms of chronic pain and risk of heart attack. Older volunteers benefit from not only an increased longevity of life, but a better quality, as it helps them manage everyday tasks, and improves their memory and thinking.