Regardless of your circumstance, regardless of your age—yes-- even if you are over 50 and perhaps even feeling depressed yourself, it may be that doing volunteer work can be a great antidote for you[i].
Recent studies show us that not only is volunteering good for your brain!
For the cognitive functioning of your brain, both with regard to planning and organizing but also with regard to delaying or reversing decline in brain functioning.
As well, volunteering is good for your heart.[ii]
Volunteering is associated with “better mental and physical outcomes” says, Eric Kim, of Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and that, volunteers were more likely to avail themselves of health services such as flu shots and cholesterol checks. The article quotes a larger study (1992) demonstrating that people, who volunteered at least 200 hours a year on a regular basis, were less likely to develop high blood pressure over a four year period than those who did not volunteer. And the study indicated that volunteers had increased physical activity and psychological well-being.
Another older study indicated that volunteers were more active with walking, had less depression and less anger, more sense of direction and a goal to strive for. Because negative emotions-- stress, depression and anger have negative impacts on the body with regard to heart disease, volunteers who may have optimism and satisfaction, and perhaps a sense of purpose—which is even more significantly correlated to better cardiovascular health, are a lower risk of a cardiovascular event and dying from any cause than those with a lower sense of purpose.
[iii]Alot more has been studied about volunteering in older adults and it shows that volunteering also leads to self-confidence and sense of purpose. Increases support systems which also lower depression, increases the release of dopamine in the brain so you are happier and can thus increase longevity!
Our friend Jerry, who lost his wife, took an expansive step and volunteered this week!
A friend of someone on our Team who recently lost a loved one, volunteered at the NYC Marathon.
It took something for this to occur-for Jerry to stand with others while grieving, to be helpful to the runners and their condition of pain or suffering, to see the strength within them.
To see in them a commitment--their word to run this many miles 26.2-even when it was hot, cold, wet or when they did not feel well or did not want to.
Jerry got a chance to help others.
He had a chance to hold the crowd back so that the runners could have space.
To give directions to people so they could reunite with their loved ones. To hug them if they needed that, to get them water, to walk them to where they needed to be and even to speak to them in broken Spanish so they felt they were home.
His act of volunteering contributed to him much more than he could have ever given back including:
- Feeling moved and inspired by others
- Connecting with others both immediately and
- Growing his social network based on new friendships he made there
- Increased self-esteem.
The research bears this out. This is what occurs for people who volunteer!
Create your own volunteer project!
Today a friend of our Team called about her mother who lost her husband.
Her mother is now depressed.
Our Team recommended that she have her mother look at what her husband stood for in life!
Then, create a project about his legacy!
This person has grandchildren too who can participate too and she has means to really do good in the world using her husbands’ contributions and legacy as something to live on now that he is gone. So support your loved ones who have lost someone with personal volunteering!
Any type of volunteering makes a difference.
We can choose.
Choose to win!