Posted: Monday, July 8, 2024

Health Benefits of Volunteering

You may only think of volunteering as being of service to others, but did you know it also can benefit you? In addition to lightening someone else’s load or easing another’s burden, many people decide to volunteer for personal reasons such as exploring careers, sharpening skills, learning something new or staying physically active during retirement. According to the Mayo Clinic, volunteering can improve your physical and mental health, provide a sense of purpose, teach valuable skills and nurture relationships.

Volunteering regularly can help reduce stress and lower rates of depression and anxiety. The social interaction involved with volunteering offers the opportunity to make new friends, give and receive appreciation, and find a sense of purpose and pride while filling time that might otherwise be spent alone. Barbara Jenkins, director of Volunteer Services with Blount Memorial Hospital, sees this firsthand. “There is a sense of belonging and fulfillment that everyone can experience as a volunteer. There are opportunities all over the community, so if you’re interested in a particular area, just ask about volunteering there,” Jenkins said.

Sometimes, volunteering can develop insight and purpose. Volunteers may learn a skill or something about themselves that will direct a career path. For example, a volunteer with an animal shelter may find he or she excels in helping dogs that are scared when they first come to the shelter and decide to become a veterinarian or dog trainer. A teen volunteering in the hospital may decide to become a doctor or nurse. Volunteering in a classroom may spark an interest in education. Volunteering with a local charity may allow networking opportunities that result in future employment.

Volunteers also report better physical health than nonvolunteers, especially in older adults. Any position that involves movement allows for greater functional ability, flexibility and an increase in circulation—all helpful at any age. Picking up trash, bagging groceries at a food bank, or helping sort clothing out at a local charity all involve physical labor that can help increase muscle mass and reduce the risk of falling later in life. “Volunteering is beneficial to all activity levels and ages, and there truly is something for everyone’s interest. Volunteers at Blount Memorial Hospital work in many areas of the hospital, with some positions involving a lot of physical activity, such as a discharge escort, while other areas may provide more social activity, such as working in the gift shop or at an information desk. Some volunteers want to offer companionship and compassion, such as our Cancer Center and hospice volunteers,” Jenkins explained.

Volunteering even just a few hours a week can have an impact on health by enhancing physical activity, social connections and overall well-being. Harvard Health research found that people who volunteer on a regular basis were less likely to develop high blood pressure, and those that volunteer have a 24 percent lower risk of death and up to 76 percent lower risk of feeling isolated. Those who choose to volunteer regularly also tend to develop a deeper connection to their community and more civic responsibility.

There are so many great reasons to volunteer. If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity within Blount Memorial Hospital, call 865-977-5609.

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