Not only does volunteering help those in need, but it also provides significant emotional benefits to the one doing the volunteering. In fact, researchers from the London School of Economics found that people who volunteer weekly are 16% more likely to report being “very happy” than those who do not volunteer. This difference in perceived happiness is comparable to the boost you get from having an income of $75,000–$100,000 versus $20,000.
Now if that doesn’t have you wondering what work near you can be done to help others, consider that volunteering in retirement has even more significant benefits. The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency for service, volunteering, and civic engagement released two studies in the last several years on their findings of older adult altruism. It found that:
- Almost two-thirds of Senior Corps volunteers reported a decrease in feelings of isolation, and 67% of those who first reported they “often” lack companionship stated that they had improved social connections.
- 70% of volunteers who initially reported five or more symptoms of depression reported fewer symptoms at the end of the first year.
- 63% of volunteers who initially indicated three or four symptoms of depression reported fewer symptoms after one year.
So, why does volunteering have such a marvelous emotional effect on the volunteer? The reasons are many, but some at the top of the list include:
1. Increasing social connections with others.
It’s difficult to help out in a vacuum. Chances are, almost every volunteer activity also comes with the opportunity to socialize with others. Be it nonprofit coordinators, fellow volunteers, children or youth in need, or an organization dedicated to doing good; your friend circle just got a lot bigger!
2. Tapping into talents and hobbies.
Volunteering often requires us to use our unique skills in unconventional ways. For example, knitting hats in the winter or planting trees in the spring can bring out talents we forgot we had. Pitching in allows us to rediscover our gifts and share them with others, or find new ones altogether!
3. Increasing the value of your time.
This may sound wacky, but a study from Wharton College found that people who give more of their time feel as though they have more of it and that it means more overall. Regular volunteers reported they felt more confident and useful in their lives, and that they can more easily conquer new tasks.
4. Sharing of intergenerational knowledge.
What better way to share all you’ve learned over the years than to teach it to someone younger and with less experience? It’s no secret that grandparents and grandchildren bring immense joy to one another, but that joy can be felt between nonrelatives as well. Youth get the benefit of learned wisdom, and retirees earn a chance to view things from the younger generation’s perspective.
Now that summer is in full swing and the days feel longer than ever, take the time to look for ways that you can become more involved in your community. A great place to start is VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit organization that helps you find local volunteer opportunities all over the United States (and in some other countries). When you give more, everything feels better.