Written by: Ericka Leigh

We know why volunteering is good for the people we serve – it’s a nice thing to do; we’re able to help those less fortunate or in a difficult position; we’re able to share ourselves and our talents, and you feel good. But there’s actually so much more that volunteering can offer you aside from the warm fuzzies. Volunteering connects you to others in the community, as well as brings fulfillment to your life. And volunteering is good for the body and the mind.

Some of the social benefits of volunteering

In addition to connecting you to the community, volunteering can be a great place to make new friends (particularly if people are new to an area) or strengthen existing relationships if you volunteer together. As you connect with the community more, your network broadens and you may discover previously unknown neighborhood resources. Volunteering can also be a great family activity and an invaluable teaching opportunity. You may even discover some resources, community organizations, or upcoming events for your children.

Mental and physical benefits of volunteering

Volunteering is one of those feel good activities. When you do good for someone else, you cannot help but feel good about yourself. According to a study by the www.HelpGuide.org, “Volunteering makes you happy. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Humans are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel.” Volunteering also has the ability to reduce the effects of stress, anxiety, and anger. As you volunteer more and increase your skills set, you increase your self-confidence. As a volunteer, you can oftentimes see the fruits of your labor immediately, which provides a sense of accomplishment and pride. Whatever may be happening in life at the moment, volunteering can provide an outlet to get your mind off things while remaining productive and take you out of your problems for a while, and possibly better equipped to handle them at a later point in time.

“Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off of worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life,” (www.HelpGuide.org).

Volunteers come from all walks of life. Research suggests “those who engage in volunteer activities are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life and may be introduced into a positive reinforcing cycle of good health and future volunteering.”  It also keeps you healthy (most likely from the stress reducing effects), and studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. For some folks heading into retirement, volunteering can offer a sense of purpose. Additionally, older volunteers tend to be more active, thereby finding it easier to manage everyday tasks and experience fewer symptoms of chronic pain and a reduced risk of heart disease.

Fun and Fulfillment to your life

If you’re interested in something and want to learn more, volunteering provides a wonderful opportunity to explore those interests and passions. Volunteering is a great way to break up the day-to-day routine of work, family, school, etc. Volunteering also has the power to renew one’s creativity, motivation, and vision that can carry over into personal and professional life. With so many volunteer opportunities in a variety of areas and fields, volunteering provides people outlets to fulfill their hobbies, as well.

Meals On Wheels of Tampa often sets up ride alongs for potential volunteers to allow them to experience what delivering meals feels like before they commit to delivering a route.  Call (813) 238-8410 to set up a “free-trial.”