Volunteer! It’s Good for Your Physical and Mental Health
While you already know volunteering can be a great benefit to your community, did you know those same volunteer activities can also improve your health and well-being?
“There is a calmness that comes with volunteering that can lower blood pressure and lower the heart rate,” said Dr. Susan Corzilius, a family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Salem, Ore.
This calmness also lowers inflammation in the body by lowering the stress hormones, like cortisol, she says. “When we lower inflammation, we reduce the risk of many health problems including heart attacks, stroke, diabetes and depression.”
Nearly a quarter of the U.S. population volunteers in some capacity, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Volunteers spent a median of 52 hours on volunteer activities during a year, the statistics show.
In addition to the physical health benefits, volunteering can have tremendous mental health benefits as well, explains Dr. Corzilius, who volunteers monthly at the Salem Free Clinic. Being interconnected with society and feeling part of a oneness that comes with volunteering can help depression and anxiety, she says.
When it comes to senior populations, volunteering can help seniors overcome loneliness and isolation, which, in turn, lowers the risk of depression, Dr. Corzilius explains.
With benefits for your mind, body and community, regular volunteering makes sense as part of a healthy lifestyle.
“I’m a big believer in volunteering,” said Dr. Corzilius. “We owe it to ourselves and our community to volunteer.”