The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve. Dr Albert Schweitzer
Your time is the most precious gift you can give to someone and this week Happiness Weekly celebrates that. In fact, from today – Monday, 13 May until Sunday, 19 May 2013 is National Volunteers Week – a day celebrated among many charities across Australia.
Volunteering is estimated to be worth more than $10 billion to the Australian economy with approximately 4.4 million people contributing around 701 million hours of their time per year volunteering in Australia. In America, more young people volunteer than vote.
The most common reason people volunteer is to “improve society and the environment”, although there are several other reasons people volunteer:
To help people
To help the community
To pass the time
To meet new people
For enjoyment and fun
To keep active
To increase skills
To improve chances of getting paid employment.
More and more people are realising the mutual benefits of volunteering – not only is it a way to help others but it’s recognised as a way that people can help themselves. “Volunteering is a way of gaining new skills to step into paid work,” Lonsdale’s research has found.
Other positive side effects for the volunteer include better physical health and enhanced social skills. Studies have shown the relationship between numbers of hours spent volunteering and numbers of times visiting a doctor also indicates there may be health benefits to volunteering for older people.
It can also be a way of bringing families closer together, by providing a common goal and the opportunity to spend some quality time together. Volunteering encourages a high level of teamwork – so bringing loved ones and family members along with you when you volunteer is highly recommended to help build on your relationships. If you’re single it’s also a great way to meet your perfect match – you have something in common and it makes a great story!
Researcher Carolyn Schwartz found that people who made others feel cared about report better mental health than the people they were helping. Donating your time may also improve your mental health because it gives you access to psychological and social resources which reduces negative moods such as anxiety and depression. Research has found 61% of people who volunteer at least five times a year feel less stressed, and those over 65-years-old who volunteer have lower levels of depression. Older adults who participate in additional hours of volunteering report improved wellbeing.
There is also an opportunity to volunteer if you have a disability. Programs currently running provide volunteer opportunities for those living with a mental condition. As acknowledged previously, it is particularly good for those suffering from depression.
A number of studies and individual testimonies clearly indicate that volunteer work has immense benefits for many individuals. There is a vast range of volunteer programs available and many opportunities for a diverse number of individuals to participate.
Volunteering and happiness
“Happy people take greater interest in the problems of the people around them, and in social problems. They spend more time helping others, and are more likely to volunteer and give away money. Happiness gives people the emotional wherewithal to turn outward, while the less happy are more likely to feel distrustful, isolated, and preoccupied with their own needs. So if it’s selfish to be happy, we should aim to be happy, if only for selfless reason,” Gretchen Rubin said.
Start volunteering! Call around local charities that specialise in areas of your interest and offer your services. Send your resume if you are skilled and find out if there is anything you can assist with. Or you could even contact Centrelink to find out where to start.
When was the last time you volunteered your time? How did it make you feel?