Health & Wellness Articles

7 Good Reasons to Give Back

Improve Your Health and the World Around You

According to the Giving USA Foundation, charitable giving in the United States reached an estimated $295 billion in 2006—a new record. The record-setting donations included $1.9 billion from Warren Buffett, paid as the first installment of his 20-year pledge of more than $30 billion to four different foundations. But you don’t have to be rich to make a difference. Millions of ordinary Americans—people who you pass on the street every day--also gave to charity, for the sake of making the world a better place, one dollar at a time.

Whether you donate money or time, giving back is beneficial--and not just for the recipients. Research has shown that the old adage, “it’s better to give than to receive” is true after all.

A Gallup survey on volunteering in the U.S.A. found that 52% of volunteers do it because they like doing something useful and helping others. Another 38% said they enjoy doing volunteer work and feeling good about themselves.

Besides feeling good about yourself for doing something for others, giving back is also good for your physical health. In a Canadian study, 85% of Ontario volunteers rated their health as "good," compared to 79% of non-volunteers. Only 2% of volunteers reported "poor" health, one-third the amount of non-volunteers who reported the same health status.

Still other studies have shown a relationship between volunteering and increased self-esteem, with volunteers reporting both greater personal empowerment and better health. Doing for others may stimulate the release of endorphins, which has been linked to improved nervous and immune system functions, too.

Many people report a “high” from volunteering, similar to the good feelings that come from exercise. Others have found that volunteering can help fight depression. Helping others can help take your mind off your own problems and enable you to see the bigger picture. Once you see the difference you can make in another person's life, your own problems can seem smaller and more manageable.

As more research is showing that people with fewer social contacts have shorter life spans than people with wide social circles, regardless of race, income level or other lifestyle factors. If you are lonely or live in an area far away from friends and family, volunteering is one way to build a social life and improve your emotional and physical health at the same time.

Here are 7 More Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Develop new skills. Gaining skills, knowledge and expertise are common side effects of volunteering. Giving others your time brings you interesting and challenging opportunities that might not come along otherwise. This experience can be added to your resume and could result in a better paying job in the future.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

Member Comments

  • If a person wants to "give back" then start right on your own street or at your neighborhood school. Big "Charity" companies are really businesses who pay huge salaries to the people who run them. Just look it up on the internet and see.
    Look on Craigslist and see who needs help in your community.
    - 10/16/2014 6:09:20 PM
  • Some of us already know this, very well. - 3/20/2014 12:17:34 AM
  • The old adage 'it is better to give than receive' is from the Bible. It also says 'for him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin'. I took this to heart in the midst of my chronic suffering and pain. I have been encouraging a neighbor that is worse off than me. The smiles and the thankfulness that has been coming out of her mouth lately lifts my soul knowing I had a part in her upward change of circumstances. 'If you have done it to the least of tnese, my brethren, you have done it unto me' ' shall in no wise loose your reward'. The Bible is not only still a good book, it is a Great book. - 12/11/2013 12:38:44 PM
  • I given back to others if I can. It's better to give than receive. - 11/1/2013 12:41:20 AM
  • Giving back is something I try to teach my children (7 1/2 and 6 years old) daily. - 10/20/2012 12:02:35 AM
    Fabulous article---and so true! I retired last year. I thought it was what I wanted, but I regretted it almost immediately. (Ironic, since I'm a counselor!) Now I'm eager to find the right volunteering position that will enable me to use my skills and help others at the same time. I can't wait to start giving back! - 7/4/2012 4:02:11 PM
  • This is a wonderful article. I too agree that giving financially to charities, volunteering at libraries, and the other ideas listed in the comments are great options. I'd like to add to those ideas, the concept of providing race support.

    Last year, I participated in 6 races (5k's, 10ks, & 1 half marathon). This was new for me. However, each time, I was encouraged by people handing out water, directing traffic, and sharing words of encouragement. So this year, I've made a commitment to self to participate in another 6 races & provide support for 4-6 more. So far I've provided support to 2 races, and it felt really good. Try it!! - 4/11/2012 11:24:42 AM
  • There are so many ways to volunteer that it's hard NOT to find something you can do. Remember that you don't have to commit to a whole day or weekend - even a few hours here and there is a big help. And, it doesn't mean working only with charities - schools & libraries need volunteers, too.

    Places that need volunteers:
    - hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living centers
    - day care centers for children or adults
    - churches (rummage sales, bake sales, sing in the choir, ministry programs)
    - schools
    - pet adoption shelters (walk a sheltered dog & get some exercise as well)
    - find an organization that provides rides for seniors to doctors appts
    - local food bank
    - Salvation Army
    - tutor a student or work in the school library
    - be a chaperone on a school trip
    - Scout leader
    - visit a sick friend or run errands or cook a meal for someone
    - do a fundraising walk for your favorite organization
    - etc., etc., etc.

    Check out websites like Volunteermatch.or
    g or even AARP to find opportunities.
    - 6/9/2011 10:46:37 PM
  • When you volunteer, you usually get back more than you give. You make new friends, you see someone blossom, you teach a pet to trust, there's a million ways and a million rewards.
    Anyone who donates time to a cause is a volunteer. Knitting for babies in the hospital, lap robes for the nursing home, teaching, driving someone to the doctor or shopping. I heatily believe in volunteering and know very few people who don't volunteer in some way. I love you all! - 6/9/2011 9:04:43 PM
  • How do you define 'volunteer'? It's not only donating time to organizations, is it? How about providing help and support to neighbors and family, or adopting parentless children -- a lifetime commitment. Then there's pet rescue, creating wildlife habit, hiring youth and out-of-work people for yard and house work, ..... etc., etc..All of these require time, patience, thoughtfulness, and willingness to give yourself. Some efforts require a lifetime of daily commitment. You don't always say 'I've done my x-number of hours' for the week or month, or go home for the evening leaving it all behind you. Does it count as 'volunteer work' when it's your life you give? - 10/18/2010 9:57:06 PM
  • Great article and so true. I work full time and volunteer my time teaching painting to my coworkers every Tuesday evening. Sometimes it can be a bit crazy with scheduling but it makes me feel great and I gain so much from them . I love when a technique that I show a student works for them for the first time (when it just clicks for them )- what a great feeling. - 8/27/2010 9:10:50 PM
  • Hear hear!! I work with a program that provides volunteering opportunities in schools for older adults, and the health benefits we see are truly amazing. These men and women go from being fragile, plagued with meds and doctors orders, unsure of their ability to take care of themselves... and six months later they're laughing, they're walking everywhere, they're picking up and carrying children... it's truly amazing and inspiring.

    I see volunteering helping people in two ways, physical and mental. Physically, volunteering gets you out of the house! Picking up brush at a local park, helping an older adult in your community go grocery shopping, helping out at a school, are all great ways to be physically active. And mentally, by volunteering you prove to yourself that you ARE useful, you ARE valuable in your community, your life DOES make a difference. It's an immensely powerful feeling.

    I encourage everyone to spend some time volunteering, whether it's a twice a year park pickup, or fifteen hours a week like the volunteers in our program. It truly changes your life. - 5/31/2009 4:29:58 PM
  • I love this article. I see so many opportunities listed in our local newspaper. My husband get can from point a to point b in no time at all. We plan to team up for Meal on Wheels in the near future when we retire. There is a need for daytime delivery help. I will welcome the opportunity to interact with the folks whom we deliver the meals to. It was a meals on wheels volunteer who found my Mom unconscious in her home in AZ nearly 25oo miles from our home her in DE. And phoned 911 for assistance. I am eternally grateful to this woman.

    I am also a Birthright Prayer Mother and I pan on being more active in this area soon as well. I love people and to nurture them in a positive way.
    - 5/31/2009 10:47:08 AM
    I just loved this article. It is so much better to give and
    give as much as possible. Our lives go by too quick. - 9/12/2008 4:07:39 PM
  • Of course it's better to give than to receive. Jesus said it because He knew that people are basically self-centered and selfish. Giving takes the focus off of "me" and puts it on "you." For some, that is very difficult to do and unfortunately, a lot of people don't understand this or they just don't care about the other person's needs. - 9/12/2008 1:28:20 PM

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