Words by: Sophie Wood
We all know that volunteering is good. Good for the community, good for people who need help and definitely good for the resume (don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it). However I’ve recently read some articles and statistics that say volunteering is equally beneficial for your emotional health. For example, statistics have shown an increase in life satisfaction and a decrease in feelings of isolation and disconnection amongst those who volunteer. A 2012 study in the Health Psychology journal also found that people who volunteer live longer. However there is a clause – your intentions must be truly altruistic!
It was eight months ago that I started my first ‘official’ volunteer position with Milaana. Since then, I have become a serial volunteer giving my time to charity organisations, social enterprises, not-for-profits and a number of blogs and magazines. So please, allow me to tell you how volunteering has transformed my own emotional health and you can make up your own mind.
I am happier
Volunteering makes me happy. There is no doubt about it. I thrive off the fact that my spare time is helping other people that may not be as lucky as I am. In fact, the data is in and a U.S. study confirms that 96 percent of participants say that volunteering “makes people happier”. I challenge you to go to a volunteer organisation and find an unhappy volunteer. They are hard to come by!
I sleep better
Maybe it is the increased amount of work I’m doing (overachiever alert!) but I sleep so much better when I make volunteering a regular activity in my week. Not only do I sleep better but I also go to bed feeling accomplished and satisfied. It doesn’t even have to take up a lot of your time. Studies claim just two hours per week is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives and sleep.
I feel greatly connected
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to volunteer at Byron Bay Bluesfest. While my volunteer role stunk (I literally had to pick up smelly rubbish), the whole experience was enjoyable. Why? Because of the people I spent it with! At the end of five long days working with each other, my volunteer team had developed such a great sense of comradery, connectedness and tribe vibes among us.
I have an increased sense of purpose
I’m currently volunteering at Volunteering Gold Coast and have the privilege of interviewing and speaking to many volunteers spanning across many organisations. When volunteers are asked about the benefits of volunteering, the most popular answer I receive is “I feel an increased sense of purpose”. This is especially important for students who are studying a degree with no idea what they want to do with it. Purpose is liberating!
With these wonderful benefits, volunteering is often recommended for the elderly, depressed or injured as a way to boost mood, confidence and happiness. However, what about students? I asked the Milaana team and they gave some wonderful ways in which volunteer has helped them.
“[Volunteering helps] you find your people. You discover a community that cares just as much as you do, if not more! You are inspired by their passions and excited by how their talents will benefit all around them. In the total diversity of this community, there is oneness. This oneness is the knowing that we are indeed one and that just like breathing, in and out, you take – breathe in – but you must also give – breathe out. It feels amazing to belong to such a community and it gives you enormous hope and optimism regardless of what is happening around you. They call this the ‘human spirit’ and it is abundant in the world of volunteering” – Hollie Gordon
“Volunteering with Milaana has really developed my ability to prioritise and get work done as soon as I get it rather than putting it off till later. When you are consistently getting work done you become faster and more productive at what you do which gives you free time and a general peace of mind” – Olivia Shaw
“Volunteering with Milaana has given me something worthwhile to do in my spare time – by helping spread the word about Milaana, I’m hopefully helping to link up a few more students with socially conscious organisations who need them. So it makes me feel that I’m doing some good in the world. And it brings with it a few challenges so it’s been quite fun trying to rise to meet them.” – Hayden Win
“I am happier since volunteering with Milaana. It’s working on something I care about that isn’t necessarily about me, it’s consistently asking ‘how can I best serve?’. That’s a powerful mentality. It builds confidence, expands creativity and by giving to a cause I experience my own fulfillment” – Lucy Skadins
“Volunteering at Milaana has got me more… excited about the way the future could head. More optimistic, I guess. More motivated to try” – Ricky Sheward
“Volunteering for Milaana has made me so much more aware of the breadth of issues our generation face. But more importantly, it has made me aware of the many fantastic and creative ways that we can/are solving the problems we see. If an idea can work to make the world a better place, it is good. No matter how weird and wonderful it is, it is good. Volunteering has inspired me to not be afraid of my ideas because they could one day create a greater impact than I could have ever imagined” – Anna Davies
“Starting with Milaana I wasn’t sure if I could share, connect, or inspire people or things that matter, things that we all care about because I have been let down in the past. However, I quickly realized that these were the people I should have been with the whole time. They people that help me, support me and motivate me to not only put that extra effort but that I have something to offer. I now see things on a wider and deeper scale.” -Frank Sikalas