You might think of volunteering as a drag or a chore, but did you know that there are numerous benefits to putting in some communal elbow grease a few hours a week? The right volunteer position can help you to reduce stress, find friends, reach out to the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career. It can also help keep your mental and physical health in good shape.
Volunteering and your mind and body
Yes, one of the well-known benefits of volunteering is its impact upon the community. But did you know that it can also improve your mind and your body? The social-contact aspect of helping and working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Plus, volunteering has been found to combat stress and depression (working with pets, especially!), make people happier, improve self-confidence and give a sense of purpose to one’s life.
Studies even have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not.
Volunteering and your career
Volunteering also can advance your career aspirations. You can gain experience in a new area of interest or field. Even if you are not looking for a new job, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management and organization.
Just because the work is unpaid does not mean you do not gain valuable skills. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counselor while volunteering for a women’s shelter or a knowledgeable art historian while donating your time as a museum docent.
Volunteering can help you try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. In some fields, you can volunteer directly at an organization that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home.Your volunteer work might also expose you to professional organizations or internships that could be of benefit to your career.
Volunteering doesn’t have to take over your life to be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two to three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits — to both you and your chosen cause.
The important thing is to volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable to you. Volunteering should feel like a fun and rewarding hobby, not another chore on your to-do list.
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