The Volunteer Wellness Effect

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Wellness

Post image for The Volunteer Wellness Effect

Doctors and scientists agree that people who volunteer are more likely to be happier and healthier than people who don’t volunteer.  Serving others awakens, energizes and exercises your heart both physically and, most importantly, emotionally.  We exercise our minds and muscles, so why not exercise the qualities that come from your heart such as kindness, compassion and joy?  An effective way to exercise your heart-center is to volunteer.

The Power of Service- 2 Nobel Award Recipients

“The only ones among you who will be really happy are those that have sought and found how to serve.”  Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965, Nobel Peace Prize)

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941, Nobel Prize for Literature)

Survey on the Health Benefits of Volunteering

According to the 2007 Corporation for National & Community Service report entitled The Health Benefits of Volunteering- A Review of Recent Research:

∞ “Those who engage in volunteer activities are less likely to suffer from ill health later in life and may be introduced into a positive reinforcing cycle of good health and future volunteering.”
∞  “Some of these findings also indicate that volunteers who devote a “considerable” amount of time to volunteering (about 100 hours per year) are most likely to exhibit positive health outcomes.”
∞ “Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are the most likely to receive physical and mental benefits from their volunteer activities.”

Ways to Volunteer or Serve

∞ Donate your time
∞ Make a monetary contribution
∞ Donate blood
∞ Purchase products and services from organizations that support charitable causes
∞ Dine/shop in places that support food banks
∞ Proactively & consciously send positive thoughts to another person or to a group of people
∞ Random acts of kindness- smiling, joyfully providing driving directions to someone

Volunteer Wellness – The Chicken or the Egg?

It’s not clear if happier and healthier people tend to volunteer, or if volunteering makes you happier and healthier.  From my perspective, it doesn’t matter, just jump in.  You may want to start a volunteer journal and capture your feelings, mental attitude and experiences after you volunteer.

Or warm up to it- observe others and see how you feel.  In the photograph, did you notice the woman smiling as she observes the couple helping the elderly man?

The Volunteer Secret Sauce

As discussed in “When your Relationships are Good, Your Life is Good”, your attitude and intentions assist to create the best outcome. Are you serving from an ego perspective, or out of guilt?  It is best to serve authentically.  I often use this service intention:  It is my intention to serve with skill, joy, grace and ease for the highest good of all concerned.

The secret sauce, for me, is to serve as if no one is watching; to come and go without the need for anyone to know I was there. The higher your serving consciousness (in other words, the less your ego is involved), the greater the wellness effect for others…and for you.

Very Smart Girls volunteer and energize their heart-center.

photo credit: Ed Yourdon

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