Volunteering is a good thing to do for your community, but did you ever stop to think that it could be good for you, too?
Evidence shows volunteering can help reduce stress.
In fact, when people take on volunteer positions, their stress levels are no longer detectible through a stress monitor. A 1990 study showed that people who volunteered at least 40 hours a week actually lived longer!
So why not give volunteering a try?
5 Ways Volunteering Reduces Stress
1. Taking a Break from Your Stress
Sometimes, the best way to reduce stress is to put what’s stressing you out on the back burner. That doesn’t mean you ignore things that need your attention, or that you bury your head in the sand.
It does mean taking some time to think about something besides your stressful schedule, situation, home life, workplace, or whatever it is that’s making you tense and anxious. Volunteering causes you to focus on what you are doing right now, taking your mind off of your troubles for a bit.
2. Putting Things in Perspective
Another aspect of volunteering is that you see the situations of others – and those situations are often worse than yours. It can be humbling to see people who are struggling with things that you can’t even imagine dealing with on a daily basis, yet they are moving forward with their lives. It puts your own situation in perspective, and may even foster a sense of gratitude.
3. A Sense of Purpose and Meaning
A sense of meaninglessness, or the feeling that you have no clear purpose – you’re just surviving each day long enough to spin your wheels – causes stress. Volunteering can break that cycle, infusing your life with meaning and definite purpose. When you have a sense of personal meaning, stressors seem to “roll off” more easily and be more manageable.
4. Making a Difference
Another of life’s stresses is the sense that nothing you do matters or gets noticed. But when you volunteer, you matter very much, and it allows you to make a difference in an area that you’re passionate about. Whether you’re volunteering in animal welfare or elder care, what you do gives a sense of fulfillment.
Stress can make you feel isolated and alone in your struggles. Volunteering counteracts that by connecting you to people with similar interests and concerns. And if you and a friend or two take on volunteering together, it can be a lot of fun!
Instead of crashing on the weekends or in the evenings, see if you can carve out some time to volunteer. In the case of volunteering, you may receive more than you give.
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