Volunteering your time to a cause you care about can benefit both the cause and also you personally. Doing something altruistic is a great way to spend time unselfishly, meet new people, and build a strong community. The importance of volunteering can easily be underestimated, so here are some reasons you should make volunteering a priority.
Helping those in need
Most of this article focuses on the benefits of volunteering for the person doing the volunteering. However, don’t forget about the reason most people volunteer in the first place – to help others. Whether it is helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity or signing up to be a Big Brother or Big Sister, you are helping to provide a tangible benefit for someone who needs it. Volunteering provides essential help to people in need and the wider community.
But what if I don’t have time?
You might be asking yourself this question to start. In today’s busy world, there is one thing we struggle to find more of – time. If you are already busy, how can you find time to volunteer? While this is an easy excuse, it’s all about priorities. If you want to volunteer and serve others, you must make it a priority. Focusing on why volunteering is important can help you to prioritize this action. Understanding the benefits of serving others is key, so read on!
Benefit 1: Connection with others
If you struggle to make new connections, volunteering is a great way to meet new people and strengthen ties to your local community. Working with others for a common cause is an easy way to make new friends, boost your social skills and expand your personal network.
Benefit 2: A sense of accomplishment
Some of us go through our days without feeling like we accomplish much. We might sit behind a computer answering emails or spend the day in endless meetings. Volunteering is a great way to build a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Spending time working on something for others will help create a sense of achievement. If you feel that you are deficient in this area, look for volunteering opportunities that provide a tangible benefit to others such as clean up crews, community gardening, food collection or delivery, etc.
Benefit 3: Learn new skills
Volunteering can help you learn new skills or enhance existing skills. Many volunteer organizations provide training for volunteers (counseling, mentoring, etc.) that can help you develop the skills needed for the volunteer position. This can be a great option to try something new and build new social and technical skills that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
Benefit 4: Get out of your comfort zone
A lot of volunteering opportunities can be a completely new experience for the person volunteering. This will force you to get out of your regular routine and comfort zone. You will have to work with new people, solve problems and spend time doing something you might not be good at. Anything that gets you out of your comfort zone is a growth opportunity – that’s a good thing.
Benefit 5: Build self confidence and purpose
Doing good for others and helping out in the community provides a natural sense of accomplishment. It can provide a sense of purpose and help you find new meaning in life. This purpose and confidence can provide a sense of pride and direction. Feeling better about yourself and having more confidence will translate to having a more positive outlook on your own life and future.
Benefit 6: A greater sense of appreciation
Volunteering time and doing selfless acts for others can help to give a sense of perspective to our own lives. This perspective and time spent volunteering can help distract us from negative thoughts and help us appreciate what we have. Understanding that others are living in less fortunate circumstances provides a healthy perspective to show us that our lives are not really as bad as we think they might be. Appreciation of the small things such as reliable food, health, warmth and shelter can enhance your sense of gratitude and let go of the “wants” and “needs” of our frivolous daily desires.
Benefit 7: Better physical and mental health
Studies have shown that people who volunteer have lower mortality rates than those who do not. In a 2013 health and volunteering study, 76% of people who volunteered in the last 12 months said that volunteering made them feel healthier. In addition, 94% of people who volunteered in the last 12 months reported that volunteering improves their mood. Volunteering can help counteract the negative mental health effects of anxiety, stress and depression. The simple act of helping others can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being.
Benefit 8: It’s fun!
The final benefit to note about volunteering is that it’s fun! Personally, I am a volunteer coach for local Parks and Rec teams and I really enjoy my time with the kids. Finding volunteer opportunities that you enjoy can really enhance the experience. Mentoring, reading to kids, building houses, taking care of pets – there are so many fun volunteer options to try out.
Some advice for getting started
First, decide what kind of volunteering you want to do. Her are some questions to ask yourself to narrow down the options. Ask yourself, do I want to…..
- Work in the local community?
- Commit 1-2 hours a week, or more?
- Help kids, the elderly, or disabled?
- Try something new?
- Volunteer time using my unique skills?
- Learn new skills?
- Do something physical?
- Work alone or part of a team?
Asking yourself these questions can help you to find a volunteer opportunity that will match your personality and interests. This will benefit both you and the volunteer organization the most in the long run.
Where to find volunteer opportunities
Since there are many volunteer opportunities available, here are some ideas for where to start.
- Youth organizations, sports teams, after school programs
- Local libraries, schools and churches
- Service organizations such as the Lions Club or United Way
- Local foundations, wildlife centers or shelters
- National parks or conservation organizations
- Hospitals, cancer treatment, health organizations
Some online databases to search for volunteer opportunities:
- Volunteer Match – Find opportunities based on location and interest area
- All For Good – Search by location and browse postings
- Network for Good – Search by location, charity name or keyword
- Just google “volunteer (your location)” – You’ll get several local options to browse through
The key is to find an opportunity you will enjoy and are capable of doing. It’s also important to make sure that your commitment matches the organization’s needs.
One final tip
Speaking from personal experience, don’t be afraid to make a change and find a new opportunity if the first one you pick isn’t working or fitting your needs. Sometimes a volunteer position sounds like a good fit, but really isn’t. Be open to change and know that you may need to try out a few different volunteering positions to find the right fit.
Now go out and volunteer!
Leave a comment below to let us know how you plan on volunteering. We’d love to hear about how being a volunteer has improved your life! Also, if you love this post make sure you share it – you can share about it on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Tag us @realsimplegood on Instagram and use #TheRSGLife. Make sure to give us a follow as well if you don’t already – let’s stay connected!
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