Australians spend a staggering 700 million hours volunteering each year. With the New Year coming up in just a few days, many people are beginning to think about something they want to take on, or do more of, in the new year.
From improving our health and happiness to promoting a sense of belonging, boosting mood and making friends, the case for volunteering keeps building. Here are some reasons why volunteering in the New Year doesn’t just benefit other people, it will improve your own wellbeing too.
Open the door to life satisfaction
Satisfaction with life is at least partially dependent on living a life with purpose and meaning. Volunteering provides both these things in spades. We feel good about ourselves when we’re doing good to and for others. The OECD Better Life Index says volunteers tend to be more satisfied with their lives because they’re interacting with other people, setting and achieving goals, and learning new things. This is supported by an international study by Deloitte that found 82% of volunteers were delighted, pleased or mostly satisfied with their lives, compared to 75% of non-volunteers.
You’ll feel happier
People who “give” – either money or their time – have been reported to be happier and healthier than those who don’t. A 2007 study led by Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University found that givers were 42 percent more likely than non-givers to say they were “very happy”. Volunteering keeps you in a positive mood and can help lift you out of a negative mood.
It’ll make you feel healthier
Helping others is also related to improved physical health, including weight control, lower blood pressure and relief from depression and chronic pain. Brooks’ study also found that givers were 25% more likely to say they were “in excellent health.” When we’re helping others we’re more likely to feel good about ourselves which is, not surprisingly, a positive contributor to mental health. Mental and physical health are highly correlated so when we’re psychologically well, we’re also more likely to be physically well.
Feel a sense of belonging
Volunteering is a great way to promote strong social networks. This is because of what’s called “prosocial behaviour”, which means that what we’re doing benefits other people – this can be seen in helping, sharing, donating and volunteering. Research suggests this is a beneficial way to connect with your community and build positive relationships through creating social capital, building bonds of trust, cooperation and respect for diversity.
You can catch feel-good emotions
Ever heard of something called the ‘emotional contagion’? We hadn’t either. But as the name suggests, it’s contagious. When two people catch it, they tend to “match-up” emotionally. If a person is feeling positive and enjoying the process of giving, then this spreads across to other people nearby who become significantly more likely to give as well.
Embrace your passions
There’s a bit of a catch-22 when it comes to volunteering – we can’t just volunteer in order to get the benefits. It’s a lot like how you can’t just demand that you’ll be happy on the spot. To get the full benefits of volunteering, the trick is to get involved in something you’re passionate about. Finding the organisation or cause which engages your heart and mind, and contributing to it in ways that are meaningful to you and valuable to others, is a great gift to uncover.
So if you’re passionate about being outdoors, helping young people become the best versions of themselves and giving back to the community, why not volunteer with Scouts in the New Year? We have a range of volunteer opportunities available for every adult – whether you have Scouting experience or not. Find out more about volunteering for Scouts here.