April 17, 2023

Be a Point of Light – Volunteer!

This week we celebrate the importance of volunteer service; it’s National Volunteer Week! Every day, people and causes inspire us by giving their time, talent, voice, and enthusiasm to make a difference in their communities. In fact, volunteering is an activity that benefits the givers as well as the recipients; health and social experts agree it’s a win-win for all involved. Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at Wharton, concurs, “The great thing about showing up for other people is that it doesn’t have to cost a whole lot or anything at all, and it ends up being beneficial to the giver.”

Here are 5 ways that helping others changes us for the better.

  1. Volunteering improves our mental health. When you do good for others, you’re likely to get a “helper’s high” – a boost of serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins that makes you happier. For people over 65, research found volunteering lowers rates of depression and anxiety. Plus, volunteering provides a sense of meaning and appreciation, which can reduce stress.
  2. Volunteering improves our physical health as well. Some volunteer work may make you move more. Transferring produce at a food bank, cleaning up a local pond, building affordable housing – all these activities require functional exercise. What’s more, volunteering at least 200 hours per year could reduce a person’s blood pressure by as much as 40%. Studies have also shown that those who volunteer reduce chronic pain and blood glucose levels. Your body will thank you.
  1. Volunteering keeps our brains sharp. Did you know that volunteering could delay or even reverse declining brain function? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found older adults who tutored children experienced better brain and cognitive function. A five-year study found that volunteering seniors had fewer cognitive complaints over time and consistent volunteers were nearly 2.5 times less likely to be prescribed anti-dementia treatment.
  1. Volunteering helps us make new friends. When you volunteer, you become part of a community, surrounded by new people with a shared goal. Trish Lockard, co-author of Make a Difference with Mental Health Activism, notes, “Participating in a shared activity brings people closer together.” Being with others is important for a healthy life especially for seniors; social isolation or poor social relationships increase the risk of heart attacks and stroke, as well as depression and anxiety.
  1. Volunteering can add years to our lives. How’s this for a showstopper: Adults over age 55 who volunteered reduced mortality risk by 47%! This reduction may be due to all the other health benefits of volunteering . A happier, healthier, longer life is really an outcome that is worth pursuing.

Former President George H. W. Bush said, “We can find meaning and reward by serving some higher purpose than ourselves, a shining purpose, the illumination of a thousand points of light…we all have something to give.” So, shine on and volunteer! We even have opportunities here at Kline Galland; find out more here or contact:

Jemilla Goldstein, Director of Volunteer Services
JemillaG@KlineGalland.org  / (206) 805-1930

Sources: Points of Light; Reader’s Digest; Mayo Clinic; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Iona

Categories: General, Resources