Summary

Volunteering makes the world a better place. It’s a great way to give back to your community through your time and effort. And it might surprise you to learn that volunteering is loaded with health benefits for you. Getting started doing good is simpler than you might think. Read on to learn why it’s important to volunteer, and how to get started.

Volunteering makes the world a better place. It’s a great way to give back to your community through your time and effort. And it might surprise you to learn that volunteering is loaded with health benefits for you. Getting started doing good is simpler than you might think. Read on to learn why it’s important to volunteer, and how to get started.

Think Outside the Gift Box

Let’s expand the definition of a gift. It doesn’t need to be a package wrapped up in a bow and it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Your time can be a gift. There are lots of good and valid reasons to volunteer your time as a gift. Maybe your budget is limited so donating money isn’t an option. Perhaps wishlist items are out of stock. Or maybe you simply want to create new ways to spend your time that are altruistic. It’s time to volunteer!

Volunteering can take many forms. You can volunteer for a non-profit organization or charity. For this option, check with your employer to see if they provide paid time off to volunteer. You can volunteer to help an elderly neighbor with some home repairs or errands. You can offer some free childcare to a family member or friend so they can finally have that much-needed date night. You can mentor a young person. There are plenty of ways to volunteer your time. Take your pick.

Evidence-based Benefits of Volunteering

While the ultimate benefit of volunteering is that you’re helping others in your community, you get something out of the experience, too. Research shows that volunteering is good for your body, mind, and relationships. In short, when you volunteer, you make a healthy lifestyle choice. Here’s the proof:

Improved Mental Health

People who volunteer at least once a month tend to experience an increase in life satisfaction and a boost in mental health. The effect isn’t temporary; the more time you spend volunteering, the greater the increase in life satisfaction and self-confidence. And even when challenges such as unemployment, health problems, major life transitions,  or even pandemic fatigue negatively impact your mental health, there’s evidence that volunteering acts as an emotional and mental health buoy to help you ride out the storm.


For older adults, the benefits of volunteering multiply. Not only do the elderly experience increased life satisfaction, but volunteering also improves cognitive function — something everyone wants to protect and enhance as they age. Try this: if you have a senior citizen parent or grandparent, volunteer alongside them. Let them pick the organization or cause, or pick one you’re mutually passionate about. Both of you will receive a health boost and your loved one will be grateful for the quality time. Because remember: your time is a gift!

Improved Physical Health

People who regularly volunteer have lower blood pressure and tend to be more physically active. If you serve in a volunteer role that requires lots of physical exertion, you’re sure to benefit even more. Want to build muscle? Help build a house. Want better cardiovascular and metabolic health? Do a charitable run, walk shelter dogs, or start a community garden. No matter the nature or impetus of the task , there are physical health benefits to be had.

Volunteers also practice preventive health. They’re 30-50% more likely to keep up with vaccines, get annual check-ups and lab work, etc. Are people who get regular healthcare more likely to volunteer? Or does volunteering inspire you to take better care of yourself? While that’s yet to be determined, the benefits of volunteering are clear.

New & Strengthened Relationships

Volunteering alongside others — either by doing it as a group with friends and family or with people you meet at the volunteer site — improves social connections. For the sake of both mental health and physical health, connection to others is essential. If you’re feeling isolated or want a better social life, get out there and volunteer. Between those volunteering alongside you and the clients you serve, you’ll make new friends and perhaps form some business connections. You might even meet the person of your dreams.

How to Start Volunteering

Volunteer opportunities are plentiful. So much so, that sometimes the wide variety of options keeps one from getting started. Too many choices equates to too much analysis paralysis and indefinitely-delayed decision making. To keep yourself from being overwhelmed by the many volunteer opportunities, here are some tips to narrow down the choices: 

Prioritize Your Passions

Animal welfare, environmental justice, the arts, children, seniors, human rights, healthcare, literacy, disaster relief, food and housing security...the list of causes to volunteer for goes on and on! Websites like VolunteerMatch can help match your interests with needs in your area. If you have a specialized skill set, such as a career in medicine, law, or tech, offering pro bono services is a great way to volunteer. But you don’t have to. Let’s say you’re a successful lawyer looking for a better work-life balance. So you spend your Saturday mornings at the family shelter teaching kids to knit. That works too.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Social, Cognitive, or Physical

What muscles do you want to flex when you volunteer? If you live alone and work from home all week, consider a socially-oriented volunteer gig such as teaching a class, welcoming refugees, or organizing a fundraiser with a team. If you’re already maxed out on human interaction, foster some rescue dogs, do deliveries for a non-profit, or assemble care packages in the quiet of your own home. 

For a more cognitively-driven volunteer opportunity, think about what specialized pro bono services you may be able to offer. Are you a web designer or developer? Update a non-profit’s website. Successful business owner? Consult for a fledgling small business owner from a marginalized community. Good with numbers? Do free tax prep for low-income individuals. Also consider serving on a board for an organization you’re passionate about or dive into the education sphere: try tutoring or teaching ESL classes.

Want to work up a sweat when you volunteer? Look for physically-oriented opportunities like neighborhood clean-up, playground building, and Habitat for Humanity. If you have any skills in the building trades — carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc. — offer them! Non-profits always need that sort of skilled help.

Consider the Whole Family

It’s beneficial to involve your kids in volunteer work. When your children see you volunteer, you model to them what it means to be a good human, one who is generous, empathetic, and kind. Helping shelter animals, “adopting” a family in-need, doing a bake sale for charity, and organizing a food drive are a few super kid-friendly volunteer opportunities to consider. Ask your kids to come up with some ideas, too. Whatever you do together as a family, try to make it more than a one-time thing. Put it on the family calendar as a recurring event.

For the holiday season in particular, here are a few thoughts: If you’re gathering with multiple generations over the holidays, make some of your quality time volunteer time. Be sure to consider everyone’s interests and abilities. A few suggestions: Take a family hike and clean the trail as you go. Or get the whole gang together to participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Audubon relies on volunteers across the nation to collect this data, which helps us learn more about the impact of climate change and other environmental challenges.

Start Small & Start Now

Whatever volunteering path you take, keep it simple in the beginning. And don’t overthink it. If you get too overwhelmed on the front end, chances are you won’t stick with it. Successful Volunteer retention is an important component of any non-profit’s health. Organizations love it when the same people keep showing up. Be one of those people. Start small and start now, and let it grow.

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We believe eating delicious is crucial to a healthy diet. Each week, our team of chefs design a new menu for what's in season, fresh and flavorful.
TRY THISTLE
Posted 
Nov 15, 2021
 in 
Community
 category.
Summary

Volunteering makes the world a better place. It’s a great way to give back to your community through your time and effort. And it might surprise you to learn that volunteering is loaded with health benefits for you. Getting started doing good is simpler than you might think. Read on to learn why it’s important to volunteer, and how to get started.

Volunteering makes the world a better place. It’s a great way to give back to your community through your time and effort. And it might surprise you to learn that volunteering is loaded with health benefits for you. Getting started doing good is simpler than you might think. Read on to learn why it’s important to volunteer, and how to get started.

Think Outside the Gift Box

Let’s expand the definition of a gift. It doesn’t need to be a package wrapped up in a bow and it doesn’t need to cost a lot of money. Your time can be a gift. There are lots of good and valid reasons to volunteer your time as a gift. Maybe your budget is limited so donating money isn’t an option. Perhaps wishlist items are out of stock. Or maybe you simply want to create new ways to spend your time that are altruistic. It’s time to volunteer!

Volunteering can take many forms. You can volunteer for a non-profit organization or charity. For this option, check with your employer to see if they provide paid time off to volunteer. You can volunteer to help an elderly neighbor with some home repairs or errands. You can offer some free childcare to a family member or friend so they can finally have that much-needed date night. You can mentor a young person. There are plenty of ways to volunteer your time. Take your pick.

Evidence-based Benefits of Volunteering

While the ultimate benefit of volunteering is that you’re helping others in your community, you get something out of the experience, too. Research shows that volunteering is good for your body, mind, and relationships. In short, when you volunteer, you make a healthy lifestyle choice. Here’s the proof:

Improved Mental Health

People who volunteer at least once a month tend to experience an increase in life satisfaction and a boost in mental health. The effect isn’t temporary; the more time you spend volunteering, the greater the increase in life satisfaction and self-confidence. And even when challenges such as unemployment, health problems, major life transitions,  or even pandemic fatigue negatively impact your mental health, there’s evidence that volunteering acts as an emotional and mental health buoy to help you ride out the storm.


For older adults, the benefits of volunteering multiply. Not only do the elderly experience increased life satisfaction, but volunteering also improves cognitive function — something everyone wants to protect and enhance as they age. Try this: if you have a senior citizen parent or grandparent, volunteer alongside them. Let them pick the organization or cause, or pick one you’re mutually passionate about. Both of you will receive a health boost and your loved one will be grateful for the quality time. Because remember: your time is a gift!

Improved Physical Health

People who regularly volunteer have lower blood pressure and tend to be more physically active. If you serve in a volunteer role that requires lots of physical exertion, you’re sure to benefit even more. Want to build muscle? Help build a house. Want better cardiovascular and metabolic health? Do a charitable run, walk shelter dogs, or start a community garden. No matter the nature or impetus of the task , there are physical health benefits to be had.

Volunteers also practice preventive health. They’re 30-50% more likely to keep up with vaccines, get annual check-ups and lab work, etc. Are people who get regular healthcare more likely to volunteer? Or does volunteering inspire you to take better care of yourself? While that’s yet to be determined, the benefits of volunteering are clear.

New & Strengthened Relationships

Volunteering alongside others — either by doing it as a group with friends and family or with people you meet at the volunteer site — improves social connections. For the sake of both mental health and physical health, connection to others is essential. If you’re feeling isolated or want a better social life, get out there and volunteer. Between those volunteering alongside you and the clients you serve, you’ll make new friends and perhaps form some business connections. You might even meet the person of your dreams.

How to Start Volunteering

Volunteer opportunities are plentiful. So much so, that sometimes the wide variety of options keeps one from getting started. Too many choices equates to too much analysis paralysis and indefinitely-delayed decision making. To keep yourself from being overwhelmed by the many volunteer opportunities, here are some tips to narrow down the choices: 

Prioritize Your Passions

Animal welfare, environmental justice, the arts, children, seniors, human rights, healthcare, literacy, disaster relief, food and housing security...the list of causes to volunteer for goes on and on! Websites like VolunteerMatch can help match your interests with needs in your area. If you have a specialized skill set, such as a career in medicine, law, or tech, offering pro bono services is a great way to volunteer. But you don’t have to. Let’s say you’re a successful lawyer looking for a better work-life balance. So you spend your Saturday mornings at the family shelter teaching kids to knit. That works too.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Social, Cognitive, or Physical

What muscles do you want to flex when you volunteer? If you live alone and work from home all week, consider a socially-oriented volunteer gig such as teaching a class, welcoming refugees, or organizing a fundraiser with a team. If you’re already maxed out on human interaction, foster some rescue dogs, do deliveries for a non-profit, or assemble care packages in the quiet of your own home. 

For a more cognitively-driven volunteer opportunity, think about what specialized pro bono services you may be able to offer. Are you a web designer or developer? Update a non-profit’s website. Successful business owner? Consult for a fledgling small business owner from a marginalized community. Good with numbers? Do free tax prep for low-income individuals. Also consider serving on a board for an organization you’re passionate about or dive into the education sphere: try tutoring or teaching ESL classes.

Want to work up a sweat when you volunteer? Look for physically-oriented opportunities like neighborhood clean-up, playground building, and Habitat for Humanity. If you have any skills in the building trades — carpentry, electrical, plumbing, etc. — offer them! Non-profits always need that sort of skilled help.

Consider the Whole Family

It’s beneficial to involve your kids in volunteer work. When your children see you volunteer, you model to them what it means to be a good human, one who is generous, empathetic, and kind. Helping shelter animals, “adopting” a family in-need, doing a bake sale for charity, and organizing a food drive are a few super kid-friendly volunteer opportunities to consider. Ask your kids to come up with some ideas, too. Whatever you do together as a family, try to make it more than a one-time thing. Put it on the family calendar as a recurring event.

For the holiday season in particular, here are a few thoughts: If you’re gathering with multiple generations over the holidays, make some of your quality time volunteer time. Be sure to consider everyone’s interests and abilities. A few suggestions: Take a family hike and clean the trail as you go. Or get the whole gang together to participate in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count. Audubon relies on volunteers across the nation to collect this data, which helps us learn more about the impact of climate change and other environmental challenges.

Start Small & Start Now

Whatever volunteering path you take, keep it simple in the beginning. And don’t overthink it. If you get too overwhelmed on the front end, chances are you won’t stick with it. Successful Volunteer retention is an important component of any non-profit’s health. Organizations love it when the same people keep showing up. Be one of those people. Start small and start now, and let it grow.

Get meals delivered to your door
We believe eating delicious is crucial to a healthy diet. Each week, our team of chefs design a new menu for what's in season, fresh and flavorful.
TRY THISTLE
Posted 
Nov 15, 2021
 in 
Community
 category.