In an ongoing quest for happier, healthier lives, we are often directed toward countless books to read, blogs to follow, and even meditations to embrace. But when it comes to a single activity proven to boost morale, keep you physically and mentally active, and help you socialize with others, volunteering is an ideal option.
Simply put, volunteering makes you happy. According to Happify.com, 94 percent of people who volunteer say it improves their mood, and 78 percent agreed that it lowered their stress levels. There are three key reasons to look for opportunities to serve: regular acts of kindness connect you to others, boost your health both mentally and physically, and trigger healthy mood-altering endorphins.
Connect with Others
Cultivating friendships isn’t always easy, whether you have just moved into a new city or you’re simply looking to expand your circle of friends. Volunteering is a wonderful way to build new connections within your community.
If you love the arts, for example, and long to talk about the latest gallery installation or want someone to join you at the opening of the newest Broadway revival, why not surround yourself with fellow art lovers by volunteering at the local art museum or theater. “[Volunteering] strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities,” according to HelpGuide.org.
Strengthen Mental and Physical Health
Whether serving food at a soup kitchen, planting trees in a neighborhood park, weeding a community garden, delivering groceries for the homebound, or even cleaning out your closet to donate old clothing to charity, all of these activities require physical and mental activity.
All that moving and thinking ultimately leads to a healthier lifestyle. Research shows that, in general, volunteers report better physical health than nonvolunteers.
Boost Your Mood Naturally
Have you ever experienced the “helper’s high”? Think back to a time when you might have spent hours cleaning a family member’s house or did yardwork for your elderly neighbor. While physically exhausted after a day filled with labor, did you walk away feeling happy? That happiness comes from pleasure-inducing endorphins triggered by your charitable activities. Psychologists have dubbed that euphoria the “Helper’s High.”
When seeking ways to create a happier life for yourself, consider this trio of reasons why volunteering should be high on your list.