Volunteering: Good for Others, Good for your Health
The benefits of volunteerism are numerous. Communities far and wide are nurtured by the efforts of millions of volunteers. Then there is the social aspect--the friends made among the volunteers and the institutions they serve. And of course, there is a health aspect, the positive effect of volunteerism on one's health.
Wait a minute, what's that you say? Volunteering my time improves my health?
Yes, says an ever-growing body of research. An article published in the Japanese Journal of Public Health found that senior citizens who engaged in volunteer work had better overall mental well-being. A report authored by the President's New Freedom Commission recommended that Americans suffering from mental illness should engage in volunteer work, as such activities have been shown to increase functional abilities and decrease symptoms of mood disorders. Several published studies have shown that youth who participate in volunteer activities tend to engage less in risk-taking behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol and using illicit drugs .
The health benefits of volunteer work do not require a person to invest an enormous amount of time in any given activity. Investing as little as 100 hours of your time each year in a volunteer activity seems to improve your overall health. That translates to about two hours each week. The key seems to be enjoyment of the work you choose. If you participate in a volunteer activity that you truly enjoy, then your health tends to improve.
So find your niche, follow your passion and get into your volunteering groove. Your community will thank you, and so will your body, mind and spirit. While you are at it, why not help out Toyota in their effort to give out cars to deserving non-profit organizations.