We hear a lot about how we’re becoming increasingly isolated because more and more of our days are being spent staring into a screen and, consciously or not, avoiding eye contact.
Somewhere along the way, too many of us have allowed ourselves to forget what it means to truly connect with another person. It’s understandable. After all, we’re also working harder than we ever have. And what little free time we have is immediately absorbed by our families.
But being more active in our communities is about more than time and compensation. In fact, it just may be what fills that void you feel so acutely but haven’t quite been able to pin down. Think we’re overstating it? Check out all the ways that volunteering has been shown to change lives.
Volunteering grows your circle of friends
Don’t get us wrong. Social media is great for maintaining existing friendships. But it doesn’t do much for fostering new ones. Volunteering, however, places you right alongside likeminded people who are putting themselves out there just like you.
Not to mention, people who volunteer make more money, in large part because the relationships they’ve formed through volunteering can be leveraged for career gain. Think about it: Your new friends are providing you with new information and opportunities, whereas your current circle of friends is already participating in the same kinds of activities and knows all the same people.
Volunteering is good for the body and the soul
Volunteers are happier and healthier than those who don’t volunteer. That’s a fact, not an observation. Even more, volunteering during later life has been shown to be even more beneficial for one’s health than exercise and eating well.
Older volunteers are remaining stronger and more cognizant, and they’re living longer. But there’s a catch: Most older people who volunteer start doing it earlier in life. So those gains from volunteering occur from maintaining that activity over many years.
The exact nature of those benefits isn’t really understood yet, but it’s widely assumed that a key factor is that volunteering facilitates opportunities to fulfill one’s sense of purpose.
Volunteering, by definition, means working without the expectation of being paid for it. In turn, the people who choose to do it tend to spend their time on issues that are meaningful to them.
On a more personal level, though, there’s nothing more fulfilling than realizing how much of an impact a volunteer can make. And, sure, bringing about change in a big way is always great, but we’re talking about making just one person’s life better by your actions. That’s the connection we were alluding to earlier.
So, you don’t necessarily need a cause or even a reason to volunteer—because once you make that connection, everything else is going to pale in comparison. And you’ll wonder why you waited so long.