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Top 5 Benefits you Gain from Volunteering:
- Gain confidence. Volunteering can help you gain confidence by giving you a chance to try something new and build new sets of skills.
- Make a difference in your community. Volunteering has a positive and valuable effect on people. You can make a real difference!
- Learn new skills. Volunteering can help you learn new skills, gain experience, and sometimes even qualifications.
- Take on a challenge. Challenge yourself to try something different, achieve personal goals, practice using your skills, and even discover hidden talents.
- Meet people. Volunteering can help you be a part of the community, meet different kinds of people, and make new friends.
Learn more about volunteer opportunities in Winona, HERE!
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By: Elizabeth Hopper, Ph.D.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to the practice of social distancing, creating feelings of stress and isolation in many of us. Some groups have been hit particularly hard, including the elderly, parents juggling work and child care, and people who have lost their jobs. Against this backdrop, many people have turned to volunteer to help make a difference, even at a distance.
New research suggests that volunteers aren’t just helping the communities they serve. People who volunteer actually experience a boost in their mental health—good news at a time when more than a third of Americans are experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression.
In a study published this year in the Journal of Happiness Studies, researchers examined data from nearly 70,000 research participants in the United Kingdom, who received surveys about their volunteering habits and their mental health, including their distress and functioning in everyday life, every two years from 1996 to 2014.
Compared to people who didn’t volunteer, people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better. Additionally, the researchers found that people who volunteered more frequently experienced greater benefits: Those who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than participants who volunteered infrequently or not at all.
Finally, volunteering can be a way to build professional skills and try out leadership opportunities, which is especially relevant to young adults. In the current study, the researchers found that participants ages 16-24 and 55-74 were especially likely to benefit from volunteering, perhaps because of the opportunity to build social connections and new skills.
Many nonprofit organizations are offering opportunities to volunteer remotely from home during the pandemic. While research hasn’t directly compared this to traditional in-person volunteering, Lawton suspects that remote volunteer opportunities are likely to also benefit our well-being. So, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts lately, volunteering can be a way to help bring you a sense of control in a stressful situation—a happy side effect of the vital work that volunteers do.