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Volunteering, finding your purpose and mental health

 

Evidence suggests that the act of volunteering has positive effects on our social psychological factors, such as one’s sense of purpose. In turn, those positive psychological factors are actually correlated with lower risks of poor physical health. Therefore, volunteering can enhance a person’s social networks all while buffering their stress in the process and reducing their risks of disease. Sounds like a no-brainer, right? We certainly think so!

As often as we hear of the social benefits to volunteer work, it’s not as often that we are informed of how volunteer experiences can also provide us with both mental and physical benefits. It’s no secret that giving back helps you just as much as it helps others. Volunteering is not always about finding the good, but rather creating the good. We know that volunteering makes an immeasurable difference in the lives of others, and if you’re not a part of that, well then you missing out! Studies have repeatedly shown time and time again that there truly are some great mental and physical benefits to volunteering such as the following:

 

  • Decreasing your risk of depression. It has been proven that volunteering with and for others increases your social interaction and helps build a support system based on common commitment and interests, both of which have been shown to decrease depression.
  • Enjoying a sense of purpose and fulfillment and increasing your self-confidence while you’re at it.
  • Staying physically and mentally active. A study released by Johns Hopkins University in 2009 revealed that volunteers actually increase their brain functioning each and every time they volunteer. Volunteer activities get you up and moving and thinking at the same time.
  • Reducing your stress levels. By savoring your time spent in the service to others, you are guaranteed to feel a sense of meaning and appreciation, both given and received, which can be calming to the human spirit.
  • Experiencing the “Happiness Effect.” (This one is my favorite!) You know that feel-good sense you get after a vigorous workout? It comes from a release of dopamine in the brain. Helping others has that exact same effect. So, the more you volunteer, the happier you become. It really is that simple.

 

Here at Vidant Beaufort Hospital, we are blessed with many wonderful volunteers, both adults and juniors, who continuously sacrifice their time and energy to give back to our patients, their families and our community. Each year, our volunteers here at the hospital and at the Marion L. Shepard Cancer Center donate more than 16,000 hours of their time with no expectation of compensation for the time spent volunteering. Their unwavering dedication and commitment to those in need is admirable, to say the least.

Each year in April, we celebrate National Volunteer Week. This year National Volunteer Week is April 15–21. This week is a time where we will celebrate the impact of volunteer services, both recognizing and thanking our volunteers for the unselfish time they lend each and every day. Their commitment to our patients and their families, our staff and our community is comparable to none. They teach us, love us, inspire us and most importantly, they are a vital part of our success, and we simply could not do it without them. They are passionate and motivated to make a powerful difference in the lives of others, and we are honored to call them ours.

If you too are ready to make a positive impact on others and start experiencing the wonderful mental and physical health benefits in the process, we encourage you to be the “Hands That Serve with Hearts Who Care” by volunteering at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. Jamie Tice is manager of volunteer services at Vidant Beaufort Hospital. She can be reach in the volunteer office at 252-975-4161 or via email at Jamie.Tice@vidanthealth.com.