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The Personal Benefits of Volunteering What does the academic literature have to say about the personal benefits of volunteering?

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Presentation on theme: "The Personal Benefits of Volunteering What does the academic literature have to say about the personal benefits of volunteering?"— Presentation transcript:

1 The Personal Benefits of Volunteering What does the academic literature have to say about the personal benefits of volunteering?

2 Biological and Social Sciences are studying this topic Physical and Mental Health (Brain, Immune System & Hormones) Social well-being, Life Satisfaction Gerontology: Successful Aging (Successful Living) Rowe and Kahn: 3 components Avoiding disease and disability Maintaining high mental and physical functioning Sustaining engagement with life (participating in relationships with others and being productively involved in activities

3 Borrowing from David Letterman I’ve created the top ten list of personal benefits of volunteering.

4 10. Create new satisfying experiences Helping others helps us feel better. Giving of ourselves results in our continuing to grow and develop – and that makes us more interesting to ourselves and others! “What kind of person would you rather be around? – someone who is continuing to grow by helping others or someone who is self- absorbed or stagnant?

5 9. Use skills you already have Have you heard the old saying, “Use it or lose it!”? Keep practicing those skills!

6 8. Develops New Skills & Knowledge Volunteering often gives the benefit of developing new skills or gaining knowledge in new areas. Take that opportunity! You’ll be exercising your brain – which helps keep it healthy. Cent “Don’t ever turn down the chance to learn something. Keep your mind open.” And you’ll have something new and interesting to talk about with your friends and family! This can be especially beneficial if they just want to talk about the same tired things!(not that I have any family like that)

7 7. Opportunity to Meet Others Any girl scouts in the audience? “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold.” Centenarian Study quote: “It’s funny how your friends change from old to young. My friends are all young now.” If your lucky, you’ll make friends of all ages. In general, people who report strong social relationships have a reduced risk of mortality.

8 6. Offers an Important Social Role Improving civic engagement Contributes to a more civilized society Having a valued social role improves your feelings of self-worth, which enhances your psychological well-being. Reinforces our feelings of having a meaningful life. Many people desire to make a positive contribution to society. “I feel like I’m doing good and giving back because I’ve been blessed with so much.”

9 5. Helps with Reducing Stress Levels Stephen Post, co-author of “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” (2007) and Director of the Center for Medical Humanities and Bioethics at Stoney Brook University says “One of the best ways to get your mind off your aches and pains is to get your mind on somebody else.” This philosopy was also used as a treatment intervention at the United Methodist Children’s Home where I used to work. Feeling stressed or down --- find someone who needs your help!

10 4. Helps keep up our Mental Health Volunteering is associated with reduced levels of depression Helps keep your self-concept strong (how you see yourself) Enhances Psychological Well-Being “The Helper’s High” (not all volunteers experience it) Without defining it, I’ll ask you to raise your hand if you have experienced it.

11 3. Helps Support Brain Health Keeps you thinking and alert Learning new things or having novel experiences gives our brain a work-out (this can also help with our mental health and stress levels, right? When something happens that could make us frustrated or makes us think “well, now I’ve seen it all” we can re-frame that into “Hey – I’ve just had a novel experience, I’m alert and my brain just got a work-out!”

12 2. Helps keep up our Functional Health Volunteering is associated with improved self- efficacy for Activities of Daily Living (self- efficacy is a person’s belief in his or her ability to succeed in a particular situation. Bandura described these beliefs as determinants of how people think, behave, and feel (1994).) Older adults who volunteer seem to reduce their risk of functional dependency.

13 1. Helps keep up our Physical Health Improves fitness: Seems especially associated with volunteer activities that require or allow for physical activity. (So if improving your fitness is your goal, ask for a gopher task rather than a desk task) Reducing stress (#5) helps keep the body healthy and more likely to ward off illness. Volunteering has been associated with reduced mortality, increased levels of self-rated health, reduced pain, improved management of a chronic condition More studies are necessary but evidence seems to be building that volunteering and improved physical heal

14 The bottom line from Stephen Post’s Book “Why Good Things Happen to Good People” “It’s good to be good.” “Try to be generous and kind and helpful to people and you’re likely to be shielded from a number of stress- related illness and odds are you’re likely to live longer”

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