By Katie Christensen
There is so much to be gained from volunteering. In a previous article, I shared findings from CreateTheGood.org, a division of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), on the health benefits of a volunteer (decreased depression, increased self-confidence, increased physical and mental activity, and reduced stress levels). However, there is one topic I did not write about. Did you know volunteering also makes you a happier person?
It’s true. While many aspects of life can lead to happiness, research proves that volunteering definitely makes people happier (and therefore, healthier). I’d like to share two aspects of happiness that can be gained through volunteering in your community.
The first aspect is one of the biggest stressors and detractors of happiness — the feeling of not having enough time. According to an article ‘Giving Time Gives You Time’ published by The Association for Psychological Science, donating our time through volunteer efforts makes us happy. Happier people give more, and giving more makes us happier. Think of it as a positive feedback loop. We may not think we have enough time, but in the end, making the time to do something that makes us happy will decrease our stress level.
Second is the aspect of our social network. Michael Argyle, author of The Psychology of Happiness, writes that social relationships are perhaps the “greatest single cause” of happiness. Spending time volunteering creates bonds with fellow volunteers, the organization, and the beneficiaries. The social bonds created as a volunteer contribute to feelings of belonging, leading to more interactions, engagement, and trust with other people. The end result: a feeling of belonging and acceptance, makes us happier.
To be happier people, I encourage all of us to work on an aspect of our lives we need to improve upon. As my grandmother used to say, “the proof is in the pudding” – let our happiness encourage positivity in others.
I will leave you with this final thought.
Every year the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases the World Happiness Report, a ranking of 156 countries based upon six factors (gross domestic product, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom and corruption, and the happiness levels of immigrants). It may surprise some readers to know that the United States is not a top 10 happy country. In fact, we are ranked 18th. In his Moving Worlds blog, Mark Horoszowski, shares that an act as simple as volunteering could lead us to be a happier culture. If we become happier and share that happiness with others, then perhaps, our nation can become one of the top 10 happiest countries!
To search for volunteer opportunities in your community, please visit www.volunteermatch.org or contact Katie Christensen, manager of volunteer services at Upper Valley Medical Center, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (937) 440-4995.
Katie Christensen is the manager of UVMC Volunteer Services. She can be reached at (937) 440-4995 or email@example.com.