Health & Wellness Articles

7 Good Reasons to Give Back

Improve Your Health and the World Around You

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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.

2. Make social connections. Loneliness and boredom are common among retirees, students, and transplants to a new city. Volunteering can relieve this sense of social isolation and help you fill empty hours in the day.

3. Give back to your community. Doing something for the community you live in and returning the favor to those who have helped you are strong motivators. Everyone, rich or poor, takes from society, and volunteering is one way to show a sense of appreciation.

4. Develop and grow as a person. Volunteering is an excellent way to explore your likes and dislikes. If you’re interested in a new career, volunteer in the field first to see if you will actually like it. You may find a totally unrelated field is a much better fit for you, one you’d never consider if you hadn’t volunteered there first.

5. Gain a new perspective. Life can be hard and when you’re feeling down, your problems can seem insurmountable. Volunteering can offer a new perspective—seeing people who are worse off than you are, yet still hanging in there, can help you see your life in a whole new light.

6. Know that you're needed. Feeling needed and appreciated are important, and you may not get that appreciation from your paid work or home life where the things you do are expected or taken for granted. When you volunteer, you realize just how much you are truly needed. Meeting people who need your help is a strong incentive to continue—people are depending on you. If you don’t do it, who will?

7. Boost your self-esteem. Many volunteers experience a sense of increased self-esteem and greater self-worth. Helping others makes you feel good about yourself, because you’re doing something for someone that they couldn’t do for themselves.
 
Research has shown that the good feelings you experience when helping others may be just as important to your health as exercise and a healthy diet. But it’s the smile from a child or thankful person that shows you’re really making a difference in someone's life. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world.

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Member Comments

  • Volunteering with Relay for Life next weekend.
  • That was some kind information about Spark People.
  • Been volunteering since I was 13. Was a candystriper for 5 years. Just retired and looking for more opportunities to give back. Would like to combine with some form of physical activity, like walking. Any ideas?
  • Volunteering is good for everyone involved really. I've have been volunteer for many years in a variety of organisations and I felt I helped people or helped a cause I believed in. But I gained a lot too. Fun, friendship, a sense of purpose, a sense of being valued. Especially once my children left home and parents passed away - volunteering gave me back a feeling of belonging and being needed which I had missed from my life.
  • Habitat for Humanity, via the RV Care-A-Vanners program - www.Habiatat.org/
    RV - is my go-to and most enjoyable volunteering activity.
  • Two reasons I give back.....1. I have more than I ever dreamed of...great wife, two great sons, wonderful family and friends....(and, yes, working for the same company for 34 years helps with the happiness part)....2. There are so many still in need. Over 30000 homes in NJ still not habitable because of Superstorm Sandy is one close to my heart through Lutheran Social Ministries of NJ.

    Don't think you need to be an expert in the field to help out. For instance, Disaster Response crews that stay extended periods of time need meals, for one. Who would have thought that cooking meals is a way of helping those who can't live in their ruined homes? So think outside the box. Reach out, and the organization you want to help will find a way for you to help!

    And it's okay to do something for yourself, too. I do a 5K on Jan 1 that the charity has something to do with cats. That's not near and dear to my heart, but it's a charity, and the 5K is a great way to start the year!
  • No mention of the easiest (I think most rewarding) way of helping others: smiles, hugs, words of encouragement, picking up something for someone who doesn't know they dropped it, letting other drivers merge ahead of you, helping an elderly person accomplish something difficult for them (crossing the street, etc), reporting child or animal abuse. I could go on and on, but to me, these everyday courtesies show our connection, our love...and really do help!

    The rest of the article was great! Thank you.
  • 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.
  • Some of us already know this, very well.
  • 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' '...you shall in no wise loose your reward'. The Bible is not only still a good book, it is a Great book.
  • I given back to others if I can. It's better to give than receive.
  • Giving back is something I try to teach my children (7 1/2 and 6 years old) daily.
  • ENLIGHTENED7
    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!
  • 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!!
  • AZURE-SKY
    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.

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.