Volunteering can take on many forms. From helping your children’s school summer fetes, to building houses in developing countries. The benefits to those communities receiving help is well documented. It often provides free labour, teaches and shares skills to local residents to improve self-sufficiency and can even raise awareness of a plight to global audiences. But what about the less obvious benefits to the individual volunteer?
This week we’ve heard from Hannah and Steve, who for different reasons, both find volunteering hugely rewarding. So, today we thought we’d investigate the personal benefits volunteers have often reported, by giving up just a small amount of their time.
Everyone's a winner
Research suggests that volunteering increases the flow of blood to your brain and other vital organs, reducing the chances of heart attacks, strokes and Alzheimer’s. The increased brain activity and hormones can help stimulate cognitive skills and relieves stress, anxiety and depression.
Then, of course, there are the physical benefits too. But you don’t have to be linesman for your local football team to enjoy the rewards of exercise. Even less demanding roles can have huge benefits to your health, as you’re much more likely to be active and engaged when you work with others or animals.
Volunteering can also help advance your career. It really boosts your CV and helps it stand out from the pack by giving you new skills and training, which may not be easy to obtain at work or privately.
Whether it be helping with the CSSC games or organising a Christmas shopping coach tour, helping others can give you a tremendous sense of purpose and pride. When other people rely on you, you’re much more likely to have a positive view of your own self-worth and future goals. And meeting people and widening your social network can uncover new hobbies or interests, you may never have considered before.
Small commitments lead to huge benefits
You don’t have to give up all your free time to recoup the rewards. The latest studies advise any volunteering is good for you. And the optimum amount to achieve the biggest boost to your wellbeing is around 2-3 hours per week or 100 hours per year. The most important thing to consider when deciding to give volunteering a go, is to do what feels comfortable. It should never feel a chore or onerous. You should always enjoy what you do. It may take a couple of tries to find something you love, but when you do, you may never look back.
If you’re interested in finding out a bit more, try our volunteering page for some insightful guidance.