We know it's great to give of ourselves through volunteerism and good deeds, but how far do the benefits go? Can volunteering actually improve your overall well-being? Dr. Bridget Monaghan, the Chiropractic Director of Chiro One Wellness Centers of Hyde Park says yes!
"Volunteering can help a person's health," she explains. "Doing something that makes a person feel good releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that allows that feeling of satisfaction and pleasure to occur." Need more convincing? Here's how volunteering can lead to a healthier you:
Doing Good Feels Good
Social isolation can lead to feelings of depression and volunteering combats this risk. When you're volunteering, you're getting yourself out there, making new friends and meaningful contact with others. These connections provide you with a support network to turn to when you're feeling down or need help.
Volunteering = Heart Health
A recent study from Mt. Sinai Hospital shows that a group of students who volunteered for 10 weeks reported significant improvements in their cardiovascular health, as compared to their peers who didn't volunteer. Participants experienced reduced markers of inflammation, lower BMI and cholesterol levels.
Helping Others Helps You
Volunteering boasts personal and professional advantages. While serving others, you give yourself new life experiences and improve your skill set. Because you feel valued and needed, your self-esteem increases. And volunteering looks great on a resume, too!
Choose What's Right for You
Unsure about how to start? Think about what types of activities will provide you with a meaningful experience. "If you're giving back for a few hours, choose a new and different activity from your everyday skill set," recommends Dr. Bridget. "But if you choose to volunteer somewhere on a regular basis, your impact may be greater if you choose something you already do well. The most important thing is that it helps you feel good!" For ideas about where you can help, look to churches, soup kitchens, food donation centers and shelters. A quick Google search of volunteer opportunities in your specific area is a great way to start.
"Volunteering at Chiros Care Free Clinic on a regular basis keeps my life in perspective," says Dr. Bridget. "My life is better from a mental health standpoint as I continue to serve this population of patients, who have incredibly challenging circumstances but still have faith in the good of the world. I always leave shifts at the free clinic feeling humbled and grateful for my life, thanks to our patients."
So, consider volunteering similar to a free health club membership. Doing good improves your physical, emotional and mental health, putting you on the fast track to whole-body wellness.