Benefits to the Community – and You
- Volunteering builds your community
Volunteering encourages interaction between people living in a community and strengthens community connections.
When you volunteer, you are actually improving the life of your own community, and creating social capital at the same time. Social capital is a kind of currency for healthy living and grows when people in the community are involved in civic activities and earn the trust and cooperation of others. The more social capital there is, the healthier and more vibrant your community.
- Boost your own health
Feeling connected to community can also play a key role in how healthy you feel. According to researchers from Harvard University, volunteering is a reflection of social connectedness, which is strongly associated with the health of the people in that community.
Results from the Canadian Community Health Survey, which takes a close look at how connected Canadians feel from coast to coast, show that two-thirds (64%) have a strong sense of community belonging. Of this group, two-thirds also feel that their health is excellent or very good.
- Reduce your stress
According to Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, known for his work on the relaxation response (the body’s ability to shift into a deep state of rest), the health benefits of doing good things for others are similar to those experienced by anyone who practices yoga, spirituality and meditation, namely a slowing down of heart rate and a decrease in blood pressure.The key may lie in the sense of calmness that comes from helping others, also known as the helper’s high. These altruistic feelings reinforce the sense that one’s life has a purpose. In turn, this enhances self-esteem, which then provides the motivation for a person to make better lifestyle choices.
- Find new purpose
As we grow older, volunteering appears to give new meaning to life, reducing anxiety and depression and increasing life satisfaction.Indeed, a University of Michigan Study of 423 older couples found that people who make a contribution to the lives of others may help to extend their own lives.
Benefits beyond your health
- In 2000, the National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating found that people were able to describe the benefits they gained from volunteering:
- 79% of volunteers said that their volunteer activities helped them with their interpersonal skills, such as understanding people better, motivating others and dealing with difficult situations;
- 68% of volunteers said that volunteering helped them develop better communication skills;
- 63% reported increased knowledge about issues related to their volunteering.