Have you ever considered the benefit you can glean from being of service to others? Do you know it can raise your self esteem and actually make you more grateful? Here are some of the good things that can happen to you when you serve others:
- Increased happiness - according to Stephen Post from Stony Brook University in New York, the part of our brain responsible for the production of dopamine, the "feel good" hormone, is activated when we help others. When we volunteer, we feel as though we have a deeper purpose which leads to more happiness.
- Reduced stress - negative emotions are reduced because our brains release oxytocin and serotonin when we help others. These chemicals, when released into our system, will buffer stress and help us to maintain social trust and tranquility.
- May help to reduce pain - in a study done by Pain Management Nursing, people who participated in a volunteer training program experienced a noticeable reduction in pain. Volunteering takes our mind off of our troubles, in this case the pain, and makes us feel more in control of it.
- Longer life - current studies indicate that volunteering may contribute to a 22% overall reduction in mortality rates, and it doesn't take that much time...25 hours per year will do the trick. That's about two hours per month.
- Lower blood pressure - in a study conducted by Psychology and Aging, it was found that adults over the age of 50 who volunteered 200 hours in the past year were 40% less likely to develop hypertension than their non-volunteering counterparts. It is believed that this is a result of being active, social, and behaving in an altruistic manner, which lowers stress.
- Helps maintain sobriety and reduces mild depression - a study of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members determined that those AA members that volunteered were much more likely to maintain their sobriety than those who did not volunteer. In many cases of mild depression, there is a link to social isolation. Volunteering keeps people in touch with each other and helps to develop a social support system.
- Career enhancement - according to the book The Halo Effect by John Raynolds, when you volunteer from a place of goodness, everything in your life is positively impacted. When you lead with your heart AND your head, the result is always positive. Even if you don't particularly love your job, the uplifting feeling you get from volunteering spills over into other areas of your life, including your job. It gives you a feeling of purpose and fulfillment and makes you feel happier, more confident and energized.
It's important that you care about the people you are helping in your volunteer efforts in order to reap the benefits to yourself. If you are resentful or you feel a sense of obligation to help the beneficiaries of your efforts, you will not feel good about the experience, causing a stress reaction. If you feel exploited or taken advantage of in any way, don't do it. You will be worse off than if you did nothing.
Volunteering may not always be fun but as long as you feel like you are making a positive difference in someone's life, it will be gratifying and meaningful to you. My advice is to find something that matters to you and find a way to get involved in a meaningful way. You will be happier for having done so.
I get a lot of satisfaction from my volunteer work with WomenHeart. I am a community educator and I go where I can to speak to women about heart disease. Sometimes I go and speak to two people and sometimes I speak to 100. Whatever the size of the audience, I am happy to bring the message to whoever needs to hear it.
Where will you find a reason to serve others?
As a health coach, I work with women who are facing serious health challenges like heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes or who have been diagnosed as having a precursor to a serious health issue such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. I help them make food and lifestyle changes so they can get healthy, live longer and enjoy a fuller, happier, more energetic life. If you would like to have a free consultation about the health challenges you have and the improvements you would like to see in your health, click here to schedule a no strings attached call.