Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, & even feel happier & healthier. Learn how lớn find the right volunteer opportunity for you.

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Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard khổng lồ find time to lớn volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, và the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you lớn find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, và even advance your career.

Giving lớn others can also help protect your mental và physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, và provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have khổng lồ involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need & improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier và happier

Volunteering connects you to others.Volunteering is good for your mind and body.Volunteering can advance your career.Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to lớn your life.

Benefit 1: Volunteering connects you to others

One of the more well-known benefits of volunteering is the impact on the community. Volunteering allows you to lớn connect to lớn your community và make it a better place. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to lớn the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. And volunteering is a two-way street: It can benefit you and your family as much as the cause you choose to lớn help. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, và boost your social skills.

Make new friends và contacts

One of the best ways to lớn make new friends & strengthen existing relationships is lớn commit to lớn a shared activity together. Volunteering is a great way to lớn meet new people, especially if you are new lớn an area. It strengthens your ties to the community và broadens your support network, exposing you lớn people with common interests, neighborhood resources, và fun và fulfilling activities.

Increase your social và relationship skills

While some people are naturally outgoing, others are shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to lớn practice & develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to lớn branch out & make more friends and contacts.

Volunteering as a family

Children watch everything you do. By giving back khổng lồ the community, you’ll show them firsthand how volunteering makes a difference & how good it feels to lớn help other people & animals & enact change. It’s also a valuable way for you to get lớn know organizations in the community & find resources và activities for your children & family.

Benefit 2: Volunteering is good for your mind và body

Volunteering provides many benefits lớn both mental and physical health.

Volunteering helps counteract the effects of stress, anger, và anxiety. The social liên hệ aspect of helping & working with others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Nothing relieves áp lực better than a meaningful connection lớn another person. Working with pets & other animals has also been shown lớn improve mood and reduce stress & anxiety.

Volunteering combats depression. Volunteering keeps you in regular tương tác with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against depression.

Volunteering makes you happy. By measuring hormones & brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to lớn others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give lớn others. The more we give, the happier we feel.

Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others & the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride & identity. Và the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are khổng lồ have a positive view of your life và future goals.

Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning và direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to lớn your life.

Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who vì chưng not. Older volunteers tend khổng lồ walk more, find it easier khổng lồ cope with everyday tasks, are less likely khổng lồ develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain và reduce the risk of heart disease.

I have limited mobility—can I still volunteer?

People with disabilities or chronic health conditions can still benefit greatly from volunteering. In fact, research has shown that adults with disabilities or health conditions ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders all show improvement after volunteering.

Whether due khổng lồ a disability, a lack of transportation, or time constraints, many people choose lớn volunteer their time via phone or computer. In today’s digital age, many organizations need help with writing, graphic design, email, and other web-based tasks. Some organizations may require you to lớn attend an initial training session or periodical meetings while others can be conducted completely remotely. In any volunteer situation, make sure that you are getting enough social contact, & that the organization is available to tư vấn you should you have questions.

Benefit 3: Volunteering can advance your career

If you’re considering a new career, volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest và meet people in the field. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to lớn practice important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, và organization. You might feel more comfortable stretching your wings at work once you’ve honed these skills in a volunteer position first.

Teaching you valuable job skills

Just because volunteer work is unpaid does not mean the skills you learn are basic. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training. 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 also help you build upon skills you already have and use them lớn benefit the greater community. For instance, if you hold a successful sales position, you can raise awareness for your favorite cause as a volunteer advocate, while further developing và improving your public speaking, communication, and sale skills.

Gaining career experience

Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to lớn gain experience in a new field. 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 benefit your career.

When it comes lớn volunteering, passion và positivity are the only requirements

While learning new skills can be beneficial to many, it’s not a requirement for a fulfilling volunteer experience. Bear in mind that the most valuable assets you can bring to lớn any volunteer effort are compassion, an open mind, a willingness to pitch in wherever needed, & a positive attitude.

Benefit 4: Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment lớn your life

Volunteering is a fun và easy way khổng lồ explore your interests and passions. Doing volunteer work you find meaningful and interesting can be a relaxing, energizing escape from your day-to-day routine of work, school, or family commitments. Volunteering also provides you with renewed creativity, motivation, & vision that can carry over into your personal and professional life.

Many people volunteer in order lớn make time for hobbies outside of work as well. For instance, if you have a desk job & long khổng lồ spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering lớn help plant a community garden, walk dogs for an animal shelter, or help out at a children’s camp.

How khổng lồ find the right volunteer opportunity

There are numerous volunteer opportunities available. The key is to find a position that you would enjoy và are capable of doing. It’s also important lớn make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs. Ask yourself the following:

Would you lượt thích to work with adults, children, animals, or remotely from home?Do you prefer khổng lồ work alone or as part of a team?Are you better behind the scenes or vì you prefer khổng lồ take a more visible role?How much time are you willing to lớn commit?What skills can you bring lớn a volunteer job?What causes are important lớn you?

Consider your goals và interests

You will have a richer and more enjoyable volunteering experience if you first take some time lớn identify your goals and interests. Think about why you want to lớn volunteer. What would you enjoy doing? The opportunities that match both your goals and your interests are most likely to be fun and fulfilling.

What are your volunteering goals?

To find a volunteer position that’s right for you, look for something that matches your personality, skills, và interests. Ask yourself if there is something specific you want to bởi or achieve as a volunteer.

For example, you might want to:

Improve your neighborhood.Meet new people with different outlooks or experiences.Try something new.Do something rewarding with your spare time.See new places or experience a different way of living.Try a new type of work that you might want to lớn pursue as a full-time job.Expand on your interests và hobbies.

Consider several volunteer possibilities

Don’t limit yourself to lớn just one organization or one specific type of job. Sometimes an opportunity looks great on paper, but the reality is quite different. Try to visit different organizations & get a feel for what they are lượt thích and if you click with other staff và volunteers.

Where khổng lồ find volunteer opportunities

Community theaters, museums, và monuments.Libraries or senior centers.Service organizations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs.Local animal shelters, rescue organizations, or wildlife centers.Youth organizations, sports teams, và after-school programs.Historical restorations, national parks, & conservation organizations.Places of worship such as churches or synagogues.Online directories and other resources (see below).

How much time should you volunteer?

Volunteering doesn’t have khổng lồ take over your life lớn be beneficial. In fact, research shows that just two lớn three hours per week, or about 100 hours a year, can confer the most benefits—to both you và your chosen cause. The important thing is lớn volunteer only the amount of time that feels comfortable lớn you. Volunteering should feel lượt thích a fun and rewarding hobby, not another chore on your to-do list.

Getting the most out of volunteering

You’re donating your valuable time, so it’s important that you enjoy & benefit from your volunteering. To make sure that your volunteer position is a good fit:

Ask questions. You want khổng lồ make sure that the experience is right for your skills, your goals, và the time you want khổng lồ spend. Sample questions for your volunteer coordinator might address your time commitment, if there’s any training involved, who you will be working with, & what to bởi if you have questions during your experience.

Make sure you know what’s expected. You should be comfortable with the organization and understand the time commitment. Consider starting small so that you don’t over commit yourself at first. Give yourself some flexibility to change your focus if needed.

Don’t be afraid to make a change. Don’t force yourself into a bad fit or feel compelled lớn stick with a volunteer role you dislike. Talk to the organization about changing your focus or look for a different organization that’s a better fit.

If volunteering overseas, choose carefully. Some volunteer programs abroad can cause more harm than good if they take much-needed paying jobs away from local workers. Look for volunteer opportunities with reputable organizations.

Enjoy yourself.

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The best volunteer experiences benefit both the volunteer and the organization. If you’re not enjoying yourself, ask yourself why. Is it the tasks you’re performing? The people you’re working with? Or are you uncomfortable simply because the situation is new & unfamiliar? Pinpointing what’s bothering you can help you decide how lớn proceed.

Where khổng lồ find volunteer opportunities

VolunteerMatch– Find opportunities that match your volunteer interests, from location khổng lồ type of work. (VolunteerMatch)

Idealist– Find volunteer opportunities in your local area or internationally. (Idealist)

National and Community Service– Federal organization offering volunteer positions across the U.S. (National Service)

Volunteer– Directory of environmental volunteer opportunities. (Volunteer.gov)

U.S. Peace Corps– Offers volunteer opportunities overseas and includes a50 Plusdivision. (Peace Corps)

American Red Cross– Volunteer in any of the Red Cross’s key service areas. (Red Cross)

Authors: Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. And Lawrence Robinson

Last updated: October 2020

Simple Changes, Big Rewards – A Practical, Easy Guide for Healthy, Happy Living. (Harvard Medical School Special Health Report)

Why volunteer?– The benefits of volunteering, including benefits to lớn your career. (Timebank)

The Health Benefits of Volunteering: Recent Research (PDF)– Research on the benefits of volunteering, especially for seniors. (Corporation for National and Community Service)

The many ways volunteering is good for your heart– Includes resources for finding volunteer positions. (Harvard Health Publications)

10 Tips on Volunteering Wisely– Tips khổng lồ make the most of your volunteering experience. (Network for Good)