Telling someone that volunteering is important is like telling them the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. It’s something we are so familiar with that we can take it for granted. So instead of looking at the value volunteers contribute to society (64 million Americans volunteered nearly 8 billion hours of their time in 2013; the estimated value of that volunteer time is $175 billion dollars) let’s consider why someone would want to volunteer.
Firstly, volunteering makes you feel good. It’s hard to describe the warm fuzzies you get when you selflessly give your time without any expectation of getting anything in return. Those good feelings can help improve your outlook on life, and having a good outlook is a key to living well. Research indicates that a positive outlook reduces stress and can increase life expectancy. One of the best things about feeling good is that it multiplies, so the more you volunteer the better you feel.
Secondly, volunteering is a great way to meet new people who share common interests and goals. Something brought you both to the same place to volunteer, so more than likely you have other things in common, too. It’s easy to strike up new friendships when you have an identified a common link to help break the ice. Friends, like feeling good, can also multiply. So, the more you volunteer, the more friends you could make!
Lastly, it’s good karma. There is not a religion or spiritual practice that does not promote the value of giving your time to something outside of yourself, and there is good reason for that. Research indicates that when people give of themselves to a cause that’s meaningful to them, they feel more connected with their community and have the sense of greater good.
So, volunteering makes you feel good, helps you make friends and its good for your soul. Pay it forward and balance the checkbook of your soul by giving your time to a cause that means something to you. You will feel better, maybe make some new friends and definitely increase your connection to your community. Sounds like living well and aging well to me!
To find out about your local Age Well Live Well community and learn about volunteer opportunities contact Beverly Brownlow at Beverly.Brownlow@houstontx.gov.