Volunteering is a charitable contribution that gives you a chance to help others. But that doesn’t mean it only helps others — sometimes it can help you too! Volunteering wouldn’t be nearly as widespread if it was a purely philanthropic exercise.
What kind of benefits can you get from it? That answer depends on many different factors, but I can at least tell you how it helped me. Maybe you’ll see similar results!
I Felt Healthier
One of the first projects I did was helping out at a community garden, complete with sunshine, dirt and sweat. I got in my workout for the day, and I felt incredibly sore afterwards. Being outside, working and getting to be around other people who are just excited to be there is an amazing stress reliever. Whenever I can lower my stress levels, I tend to feel better in general. It even helps when I’m actually sick.
I Felt Like I Had More Time
Volunteering seems to give me more time to do the things I want to do, and more time in my day to get everything done. I’m not exactly sure why it happens, but it doesn’t seem to be just me. The subject has been studied: Giving your time away to helping others makes people feel like they have more of it, the same way people who give to charity tend to feel richer.
I Learned a Lot
While volunteering, I learned a pretty amazing amount of things! If you volunteer, you’re basically getting a free apprenticeship without having to worry about doing well. The community garden I mentioned earlier taught me how to garden, but not just the basics. I learned about companion planting, poisonous or dangerous insects and plants, how to make a compost pile, how to can and pickle veggies, and I even got some experience managing people. Since the food we grew went to the local food bank, I also got to learn about deliveries, the homeless population in our area and, weirdly, how to cook.
I Expanded My Resume
My experience managing people got me a job a year later. I also volunteered with an animal rescue, which got me another job.
This benefit is more applicable to some situations than others, of course. Working with animals is a hands-on experience, so it wasn’t as important as having a degree in biology or zoology. Managing people was helpful and let me add to my resume, but I still wouldn’t have gotten that particular job without the education to back it up. While there is always something you can learn that can help your resume, don’t necessarily depend on volunteer experience to be the essential line item.
I Became More Grateful
If there’s one thing you learn when working with disadvantaged or homeless people, it’s to be grateful for what you have. I often leave with a sense that I am blessed and lucky to simply have a roof over my head and food in my fridge, let alone internet access and a gym membership! Other times, such as when I work with the elderly, I leave feeling grateful for my family.
I’ve worked with the elderly at a few places, like Messiah Village near Harrisburg, and it’s an impactful experience. Keeping in mind how healthy we are and how to stay that way is a big deal! Plus, it’s cool to hear all those stories about how life used to be. I even met one woman who was actually there when Kennedy was shot!
I Became Happier
In general, volunteer work has made me a happier person. This can be linked to any number of things, like learning new concepts, using the experience to land jobs or feeling grateful. Actually, volunteering is one of the top four recommendations to achieving happiness, at least according to Dr. Paul Dolan. It gives you a sense of purpose and the idea that the purpose is helping people. There’s no downside to it, so you leave feeling like an awesome person!
The idea that volunteering is only helpful to others is, quite frankly, nonsense. Volunteers love to volunteer because it helps them as well. It’s not a task that demands a lot of hard work to eventually start seeing results — you get immediate gratification. Go volunteer! Science says you should.