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The Benefits of Volunteering: How Volunteering Can Be an Important Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

We tend to think of volunteering as a one-way street, with the recipient being the only one who is helped through acts of service. But new research shows volunteering has emotional and even physical benefits for the giver as well, providing one more reason why helping out can be an important component of a healthy lifestyle.

Good for your soul

It’s a scientific fact: Helping others simply feels good. Studies have shown that one of the big benefits of volunteering is improved mental health. That’s because volunteering fosters a sense of accomplishment, a feeling of purpose and a higher level of life satisfaction. In addition, volunteering connects you to others, which helps stave off feelings of isolation and depression. It’s a great way to meet new friends, feel like part of your community, and broaden your support network.[1]

Good for your body

The fact that volunteering boosts your emotional well-being may not surprising. But did you know that the benefits of volunteering include improved physical health, too? According to a 2013 study published in Psychology and Aging, regular volunteers over age 50 were less likely to develop high blood pressure than their non-volunteering peers. Volunteering may even extend your lifespan! A 2012 study published in Health Psychology found that people who volunteered lived longer than those who did not.[2]

How to get started

Convinced, but not sure where to start? Consider your passions.

· Are you an animal lover? Local animal shelters always need volunteers to walk the dogs, cuddle the cats or perform clerical duties in the office.

· Do you have a soft spot for children? Many communities have volunteer programs to tutor low-income students.

· Are you a bookworm? Your local public library might be looking for someone to staff the desk or shelve books.

· Do you have some sports expertise? You could volunteer to coach athletes in the Special Olympics.

· Do you live near a veteran’s hospital? How about volunteering to provide transportation to medical appointments or to keep hospitalized veterans company?

· Do you know someone who has been touched by a serious disease? You might find special meaning in participating in a fundraising walk for that cause, whether it’s breast cancer, Alzheimer’s, or multiple sclerosis.

Kids can volunteer, too!

More middle and high schools are requiring students to perform community service in order to graduate. My teenage nephew has been fulfilling his service requirement by participating in creek cleanups, filming school events and volunteering as a counselor at a summer day camp.

Volunteering as a family is a great way to teach your kids about the importance of giving back to your community. Check out these ideas for volunteer activities kids can do: http://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/style/volunteer-with-your-kids/.

Kids may also enjoy organizing a lemonade stand or bake sale and donating the proceeds to benefit something that matters to them. You can talk to them about current events or ask about their concerns to get ideas about where to donate the money.

Volunteering: A Juice Plus+ Tradition

The Juice Plus+ Company has a strong commitment to giving back to the community. The company itself contributes to various organizations — including St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Volunteers of America, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis, and the Church Health Center. And many employees of The Juice Plus+ Company also regularly volunteer their time and energy to these worthy causes.

Do you volunteer? What is your favorite cause?

References:

[1] Grimm R, Spring K, Dietz N. The health benefits of volunteering: A review of recent research. Corporation for National & Community Service. 2007. http://www.nationalservice.gov/pdf/07_0506_hbr.pdf

[2] Watson S. Volunteering may be good for body and mind. Harvard Health Publications. Harvard Medical School. 2013 Jun 27. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/volunteering-may-be-good-for-body-and-mind-201306266428

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