How Volunteering Can Help Your Mental Health

Life Around

Individuals who volunteer touch people’s lives in myriad ways and make an immense difference in the communities they serve. And with around 80% of nonprofit organizations relying heavily on volunteers, according to Forbes Magazine, volunteering is now more critical than ever.

When you think about volunteering, you might guess it provides volunteers with a greater sense of belonging, community, and working towards the common good. You’re certainly putting your time to constructive use when you volunteer.

Whether working at a local soup kitchen in the evenings, mentoring at-risk youth on the weekends, or delivering for feeding programs like Meals on Wheels during summer, volunteering allows you to do good and give back to others.

Not only does volunteering make you feel good, but it can also have an overwhelmingly positive impact on your physical and mental health. What may surprise many is that being a volunteer can be a viable form of self-care.

Today, we’ll look at how volunteering can benefit your mental wellbeing, dramatically enhancing your quality of life.

– Volunteering can help reduce symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression

Several studies have shown that volunteering can counter the adverse effects of anxiety, anger, and stress. The net result is a gradual yet long-term reduction in depressive symptoms. Perhaps the helper’s high is the reason behind this demonstrative benefit of long-term volunteerism.

Helper’s high refers to the feeling of calmness and satisfaction that comes from an act of generosity, be it giving, volunteering, or contributing to a worthy cause. It feels like an extended sensation of mental relaxation and a heightened sense of self-worth, both of which can reduce stress.

Research seems to back this potential benefit, with numerous surveys, comprehensive investigations, and observational studies confirming the counteractive effects of volunteering on depressive symptoms.

In one study published in The Gerontologist, researchers from the University of Michigan analyzed the mental health of environmental volunteering participants over a 2-decade-period. They confirmed that volunteers exhibited reduced symptoms of depression after volunteering. Other non-environmental focused research works have found that volunteering may be linked to lower anxiety, stress, and depression rates.

So, volunteering can do you good if you’re struggling with depression or other mental health issues. But, of course, you can always visit mental health practices in person if you’re feeling a need for personalized care. Geode Health is one such practice opening around the country in states like Illinois and Texas.

– Volunteering makes you feel good

Volunteering is one of the most prominent prosocial behaviors. The latter is a term psychologists use to refer to behaviors geared towards helping others. More specifically, spending your time volunteering is a prosocial behavior that can do wonders for your mood.

Volunteering can also affect your mental health by making you feel good. According to Harvard University, your body releases more feel-good neurochemicals called endorphins when you give, help others, or volunteer. These happy-feel hormones are natural pain relievers and create a greater sense of mental wellbeing.

– It boosts social engagement, increases interactions, and builds friendships

It’s hard to argue against the benefits of social interactions, friends, and engagement for your mental health and overall wellbeing. The same occurs with getting involved in a shared activity, which brings people closer together.

When you volunteer, you’ll likely be talking, interacting, and mingling with people from all walks of life. There’s a good chance volunteering will involve some play, enjoyment, or movement. In the motion of things, your mind will be engaged and won’t likely focus on your troubles.

You’ll likely strike friendships with fellow volunteers, community leaders, and those you’re helping. Friends are crucial because they can prop your confidence, provide emotional support when needed, and help you work through your troubles.

When you volunteer, you will also increase your social engagement, which in turn boosts your brain health.

– Say farewell to loneliness

Loneliness, especially depression, can considerably affect your mental wellbeing. Biologically speaking, the feeling of loneliness and lacking human interaction can drench your body in stress hormones called cortisol.

High cortisol levels in your body not only increase rates of stress but may also impair your mental alertness and cognitive performance. In addition, having high levels of these stress hormones in your system can dial down your immunity and increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and inflammation.

– It gives a sense of purpose

Finding purpose in today’s highly turbulent world dealing with a pandemic, wars, and mental illness can be challenging. Thankfully, giving back or volunteering can give you a sense of purpose, especially when you’re in disarray.


Spending time volunteering can bring a new meaning to your life in unexpected ways. This way, you will find something to focus on and a new direction to take. In addition, volunteering is highly engaging, helping you blow off some steam, keep you mentally stimulated, and take your mind off life’s downturns.