Top 10 Ways Volunteering Improves Your Mental and Emotional Health

May 1, 2024

May is Mental Health Month and offers an opportune time to reflect on your mental and emotional health and any ways they can be improved. Dedicating time to volunteering and becoming more involved in your community can have a profound impact, with research showing that civic engagement can be an excellent way to bolster your mental health. In this era of increasing digital isolation and societal stressors, finding meaningful connections and purposes in life is more crucial than ever.

Civic engagement and volunteering not only strengthen communities but also reduce stress, combat depression, anxiety and loneliness, increase physical health and happiness, and fortify our mental and emotional resilience. Whether it’s through local community service, national initiatives or even global projects, acts of getting involved have a ripple effect that enhances individual mental health and fosters a more empathetic and connected society.

10 Ways Volunteering Improves Your Mental and Emotional Health

1. Sense of Purpose

Engaging in civic activities instills a sense of purpose, significantly impacting mental wellbeing. Studies show that individuals with a strong sense of purpose have lower levels of stress and depression. Volunteering offers a path to finding that purpose, leading to enhanced mental health.

2. Social Connection

Volunteering fosters social connections, reducing isolation and promoting belonging. Research shows that social connections from volunteering can decrease loneliness, especially in older adults, and lead to improved mental health.

See how Daily Point of Light awardee Ashwak Kalil is spearheading a youth-led movement against substance abuse stigma.

3. Stress Reduction

Civic engagement provides a healthy outlet for stress. According to the Harvard Health Blog, volunteering helps manage stress by diverting attention away from oneself and fostering a supportive community network.

4. Increased Self-Esteem

Community contributions can also boost self-esteem and self-worth. Researchers have found that people who volunteer regularly have higher self-esteem, more happiness and less depression.

5. Enhanced Mood

Helping others has mood-boosting effects. The National Alliance on Mental Illness highlights that volunteering can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhancing overall mood and emotional wellbeing.

See how Daily Point of Light awardee Miranda Miller brings peace and joy to those dealing with high-stress events with her Alaskan therapy dog team.

6. Improved Physical Health

There’s a link between civic engagement and better physical health, which supports mental health. Research indicates that volunteering has been shown to reduce mortality rates and improve physical functioning. There is also evidence of increased physical activity, strength and self-rated health.

7. Skill Development

Volunteering is a platform for skill development and personal growth. It contributes to a sense of accomplishment and wellbeing – as outlined in this study by the United Nations Volunteers program.

8. Expanded Diversity in Social Networks

Engaging in civic activities broadens your social network, as both volunteers and community members being served all come from diverse backgrounds. The Mayo Clinic notes that this type of expanded network provides a broader support system, crucial for navigating mental health challenges.

See how Daily Point of Light awardee David Good is combating social isolation and connecting people around the globe.

9. Mindful Citizenship

Mindful citizenship involves being present and engaged in community activities, enhancing mental clarity and focus. This practice, as seen in studies, leads to improved mental health outcomes.

10. Resilience Building

Volunteering contributes to building resilience. The American Psychological Association emphasizes that civic engagement helps individuals better cope with life’s challenges and setbacks, bolstering mental fortitude.

For organizations and employers, supporting employee volunteering and civic engagement can be extremely beneficial. Companies that encourage volunteering report higher employee satisfaction and better workplace morale. This not only aids in the mental health of employees but also contributes to a more positive and productive work environment.

Volunteering and civic engagement go hand in hand. They’re not just good for the community; they improve your mental and emotional health, too. Whether it’s finding a sense of purpose, building social connections, reducing stress or developing resilience, these activities offer a multitude of benefits that can enhance your overall wellbeing. You can embrace these opportunities, not just during Mental Health Month but throughout the year, for a healthier, happier life.

If you’re looking for in-person or virtual volunteer opportunities, check out Points of Light Engage.

Points of Light

We are champions of civic engagement with a mission to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.