Have you ever done something for someone else without expecting anything in return? How did your act of selflessness make you feel? Did you experience the “high” that often comes with volunteering or helping others, much like the “high” that comes from exercise? Did you go to bed that night feeling fantastic with a renewed sense of purpose? Did you have the feeling that you are connected to something larger than yourself? If you did, you’re not alone.
A Gallup survey on volunteering in the U.S. found that 52% of volunteers do it because they like doing something useful and they like helping others. Many of those people reported a “high” from volunteering – as if they just ran a marathon. Others felt that they were apart of a larger mission to strengthen their community or workplace. Still others reported that they actually felt better physically. Studies have shown that volunteering makes people feel healthier. Others also reported that they were able to manage chronic health conditions and lower stress by volunteering. Did you know that a key factor in those who get depression is social isolation? Volunteering creates a space for people to connect with one another around a common and altruist goal. In short, volunteering creates connection, which combats depression.
No matter what the project, studies have found that almost every form of volunteering creates what is called the “happiness effect.” Researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and happiness in a large group of American adults. The study found that the more people volunteered the happier they were. And most notably, those who volunteered weekly had a happiness level, which was comparable to those who have an income of $75,000 – $100,000.
What about work? How can volunteering help you in your day to day work life? How about your career? Can giving back make a difference in your long term career goals?
Taking the time to volunteer can also help you overcome those work obstacles that you thought were insurmountable. Maybe you are having a hard time speaking up at work or preparing for a presentation, which requires you to speak in public. Volunteering can help you build your confidence. Giving back to others provides a natural sense of accomplishment, which in turn creates high self-esteem. Your success in becoming an effective public speaker is largely dependent on your ability to believe in yourself and project a sense of confidence and self-respect.
And volunteering can help you build a network, which in turn can help you find your next job! Career coaches often suggest that their clients find ways to volunteer, in order to build their network, fill in career gaps and build new skill sets. Those who volunteer report that they can often add problem solving, project planning, task management, communication and team work to their list of skills on their resume. More specifically, if you can utilize specialized skills such as graphic design, commuter programming, accounting, financial analysis and public relations while volunteering, it shows your employer that you have both expertise and initiative.
You can volunteer during every phase of your life. You can improve your health, create happiness and boost your career prospects, all while helping others better their own lives.