Can volunteering be the key to happiness?
More and more people every year seem to be asking themselves, “What makes me happy?” Finding $10 on the street or eating a tub of your favourite double chocolate cookie crunch ice cream might bring a fleeting sense of happiness, but in this case we’re talking about fulfilling, long-term happiness; the type that actually alters the chemical components of your brain.
While there are many factors that lead to happiness, research has shown a direct correlation between volunteering and happiness levels, and it seems the more you volunteer, the happier you become. Even just a few hours a week of volunteering can boost your mood, increase your happiness and have a positive effect on your health.
So, why is volunteering so wonderful and what is it about volunteering that makes a person happier?
The golden triangle of happiness
A study by Professor Robert Cummins of Deakin University has shown that for people to maintain a positive sense of wellbeing, they need three core elements to be present in their lives:
- Strong personal relationships
- Financial control
- A sense of purpose
A sense of purpose can most definitely come from regular volunteer work!
Volunteering has a number of other benefits as well, including:
- Social connections
Volunteering is a wonderful way of getting out and meeting people who can unite under common beliefs and goals. It creates social bonds that make you feel loved and gives you a sense of belonging. Volunteering leads to more interaction, engagement and trust with the people you volunteer with, and this can only make a person happy.
Any kind of activity is good activity, and getting out of the house is invigorating for the mind. Physically active volunteer work such as bush regeneration can make you fitter and healthier. Plus, mentally active volunteer work keeps your brain stimulated. Some will even tick both boxes.
- Pick a cause you care about
Choosing a cause that’s close to your heart is going to make you feel even better about the difference you are making. A homeless shelter is perfect if you have compassion for others, land care is ideal if you love the great outdoors, and an animal rescue centre is the pick for you if you’re an animal lover.
- Giving time makes you feel like you have more time
It seems contradictory, but giving your time for a good cause makes you feel like you have more time. Volunteering increases your happiness levels and reduces your stress levels. When you’re happy and less stressed, you’re capable of being more productive. Basically, you’ll be able to get more done in less time.
- Volunteering extends empathy
Volunteering generally extends empathy and compassion towards others, which in turn leads to higher levels of satisfaction. It feels great to do something nice for someone else, and you’ll feel a huge sense of satisfaction with that.
So, if you’ve been asking yourself the question “What makes me happy?” why not give volunteering a go? You’ll make a huge difference to the life of someone else and will give your happy endorphins a boost at the same time. It’s a win-win!