Volunteering—even for an afternoon—can lift your spirits and your community
3 easy ways to boost your mood that actually benefit everyone around you
We know that giving our time and resources benefits our community, but our lives are overrun—with work, home and, family—that it’s hard enough to find time for ourselves, let alone time to dedicate to others.
And it shows. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans volunteer, according to data from the Corporation for National and Community Service.
But volunteering can be a happy solution: why not help the community while also improving yourself. Even simple, short-term commitments can add years to your life, improve your mental wellness, or reduce stress levels. Here’s how:
- Make a once-a-week commitment and live longer. Volunteering for a few hours once a week may add years to your life. A study by Cornell researchers that followed 427 women over 30 years found that participants who volunteered once a week lived longer. Organizations like VolunteerMatch.org make it easy for you to find an organization that fits your skills sets and time commitments.
- Take an afternoon and improve your mental wellness. Deciding to volunteer doesn’t have to mean a huge change in your schedule or even a long-term commitment. Volunteering for just an afternoon may lift your spirits. In fact, volunteers at Renewal Award nominee Project Helping—a nonprofit dedicated to improving mental wellness through volunteer work—rate their mental wellness better by 20 percent after just one project. Visit your local humane society to walk dogs for an afternoon or check out your local parks department’s schedule for park clean-ups.
- Give what you can to reduce stress. Even giving financially can create positive feedback mechanisms in your brain that may increase happiness levels. A study by Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institute of Health found that giving financially activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust—the same regions that may reduce stress levels. Check out sites like GlobalGiving.org or Kiva.org that help you find the cause that you’re most passionate about.