While the actions of volunteers by and large do benefit the recipient(s), these are 5 ways volunteerism fosters wellness and wellbeing of the volunteer. Most of us, at some stage in our lives during and beyond adolescence would probably think about the idea of volunteering for a good cause. The spirit of volunteerism, I believe is innate in all human beings, though it may be latent and even dormant in some people for varying lengths of time throughout their lives. There has been a plethora of research into various aspects of volunteerism. These aspects include motivation and its driving forces, commitment, altruism, the opportunity for social interactions and possible health benefits.
In an April 2013 article in the Journal of Community Psychology, volume 41, issue 3, titled “Volunteer engagement and organizational commitment in nonprofit organization: what makes volunteers remain within organizations and feel happy?”, the authors conducted a study among volunteers from non profit organizations. The authors, Maria L. Vecina, Fernando Chacon, Daniela Marzana and Elena Marta conducted the study to find out whether “commitment to organizations and work engagement are distinguishable constructs among volunteers from 18 nonprofit organizations”. Their conclusion is that “commitment, and not engagement, predicts intention to remain, and that engagement, and not commitment, predicts psychological well-being in the sample of 232 active volunteers”. This study is referenced to show the degree of interest in different facets of volunteerism and the various conclusions drawn by scholars and non scholars based on their experiences, studies and analysis.
Suffice it to state that, regarding the conclusion of this study, I believe commitment is a pre-requisite for engagement and that both commitment and engagement do impact intention to remain within the organizations and also affect psychological well-being. That said, the following are 5 ways volunteerism fosters wellness and wellbeing both for the volunteer and the recipients.1. Inner SatisfactionMost volunteers express not only verbal and physical connection to the served, but also emotional connection and empathy for the underlying necessity for the service. This can produce an inner satisfaction because the volunteer is positively affecting lives beyond self and family. Depending on the arena in which the volunteer is operating, the positive effects on other lives could be educational, social or health related. This adds a dimension of meaning and purpose to the life of the volunteer. 2. Improvement in Health
Quite often, volunteerism involves activities outdoors. Wether you are coaching a little league game, volunteering in a hospital or nursing home or helping an elderly person do his or her shopping, the mobility required is good for both physical and mental health. Your muscles are toned, you may feel less stiff and moving around helps your breathing and can improve blood circulation.
3. Intellectual Stimulation.
The third of the 5 Ways Volunteerism fosters wellness and wellbeing is by intellectual stimulation. Granted, not all volunteer related activities involve intellectual pursuit. However, even those that are not primarily academic would still require some degree of preparation in order to provide excellent service to the recipients. You have to educate yourself about the person, group or institution. This would involve some research. This by itself is a form of informal education which is beneficial to the volunteer. Sometimes, over time, this situation may even lead to opening of unexpected doors for a second or third career which the volunteer can pursue at his or her own pace. What an exciting way to live in one’s “golden years”.
4. Prevention of Memory Decline.The old adage: “To rest is to rust” is true not only in the physical realm, but also in the mental sphere. Reading, especially outside one’s primary area of expertise or one’s career helps to slow down and prevent memory decline. Writing does the same. Writing for presentations in a school, before a group, in the place of worshiper even as a hobby, like poems and shorts stories help to sharpen the mind. When these activities take place in the setting of volunteerism, especially if the activities are relatively new to the volunteer they help to expand the intellectual horizon of the volunteer and ultimately can prevent memory decline.5. Brings Harmony to Society.
The fifth of the 5 Ways Volunteerism fosters wellness and wellbeing is the benefit of harmony to the society. When selflessness and service to others are not only articulated, but are evident in actions, the noble behavior sends a powerful message to people in the immediate vicinity and the community at large. When the spirit of “You are my brother’s or sister’s keeper”, takes hold in any community, such a tradition bodes well for the community and the society at large. Chances are there would be less tension between the different members of the society and parents would be able to raise their children in safe, enriching environment. So, the volunteerism sets a great example for the future generation regarding the “Essence of Life”; i.e. loving others as one’s self. Finding real purpose in life beyond material possessions, riches and fame, all of which are fleeting.
So, eat healthy, keep moving, exercise at least three times a week, 45 minutes to one hour per session, keep learning new things, keep volunteering and you are on your way to wellness and you would avoid rust.