Voluntary work is the provision of one or more services to the community without financial reward. Volunteering refers to services provided by individuals or groups of individuals freely, without enforcement or coercion. It is an unselfish offer that contributes to the overall prosperity of society. We usually find Volunteering in initiatives that are related to our society, the environment, the animals, in everything we interact with. Lately, due to the economic crisis and the increase in the wave of migrants, volunteering has been more focused on initiatives that focus on people. Key motivations for voluntary work are the will, the moral and emotional satisfaction that a person feels through his offer, communicating with others, making creative use of his/her leisure time, joining the community and effectively engaging the individual in collective problems of our society. Through volunteering, people shape an attitude that opposes social exclusion and marginalization. People also learn to relate and produce social work, participating in the process of active exchange of experience and knowledge, resulting in their personal and social development.
How many people have volunteered for various reasons in their lives and have discovered how much they themselves benefit from? How many have heard friends, known or unknown people describe how much pleasure and satisfaction they feel through the voluntary actions they are taking part in? How many are wondering how one can feel better, improve their physical and mental health by offering people or animals in need? And those who voluntarily offer their help in any way, how often they have to answer questions like these: "how can you stand to see kids suffer?", "don’t you have your own problems? "," you’re not getting payed? "
Except that Volunteerism raises the values and ideals of human life by developing within it the concept of solidarity and altruism, the benefits of it in Physical and Mental Health are many. Numerous surveys have studied the positive effects of various forms of generosity (eg volunteerism, charitable donations). The results of these researches have shown that generosity, as it is expressed, has beneficial effects on the physical and psychological health of people who sometimes offer selflessness. Generosity serves as a reward for the one who offers, because he focuses on the present, helps to distract himself from the stress he faces due to personal problems.
A survey conducted at Duke University showed that the recipient of a good act is experiencing ephemeral happiness compared to the donor who is experiencing short-term. Research suggests that even with the thought of wanting to help a fellow man, a brain point is triggered, which is related to the feeling of satisfaction.
Another interesting study by Carnegie Mellon University on a sample of adult volunteers aged 50 years and older, who offered an average of four hours a week, found that they were 40% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to non-volunteers.
Other studies confirm that volunteering reduces blood pressure and cardiovascular risk because, by helping others, stress regulating hormones are released affecting blood pressure.
We could refer to Voluntary work as the antidote to social isolation. A recent review of studies in a sample of elderly people concluded that volunteering reduces the risk of dementia and symptoms of depression. A study by the University of Pittsburgh has argued that the beneficial effect of volunteering on elderly people has roots in social interaction, while enhancing self-esteem through social supply.
Another interesting survey, conducted on a sample of 4,500 American adults, found that volunteer people have reduced sleeping patterns, experience less anxiety and feelings of despair, and make friends more friendly than non-volunteers.
When one focuses not only on himself but also on acts of kindness toward others, he manages more effectively the difficulties of life.
A study by the University of Michigan, conducted on a sample of elderly volunteers and non-volunteers, over a four-year period, showed that the elderly volunteers had low mortality compared to non-volunteers.
Volunteering gives the person the feeling that he is useful to others and that his life has a wider value, which he psychologically raises, according to the researchers. A team from Canada and the US, headed by Dr. Nicole Anderson, assistant professor at the University of Toronto, and a member of the Rotman Research Institute, reviewed data from 73 previously published studies over the last 45 years. Data processing has shown that volunteering is associated with a reduction in depression, with generally better physical health (less hypertension, fewer fractures, etc.), with fewer mobility difficulties, even with longer longevity. "Volunteering must be an important component of the lifestyle to maintain health and well-being in the middle and the elderly" Dr Anderson explains, and points out that those who benefit most are those who suffer from some chronic illness. However, questionnaire remains to what extent volunteerism helps to prevent or delay senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease, as to date no study has focused on this particular issue, which scientists have described as "impressive omission."
The benefits of volunteering and offering do not discriminate in age. A recent study showed that students who helped one hour a week in extra-curricular activities for ten consecutive weeks had lower cholesterol levels than non-volunteers. The benefits of offering to a fellow human being are even greater when one has experienced the same problem in the past. At the same time, teenagers who are involved in voluntary organizations are less likely to fall into drug addiction while increasing the level of social, academic and personal well-being.
But what are the main psychological and social benefits of volunteering?
- Increases the self-esteem of the individual. Volunteering enables you to offer people who are in great need of you. This offer makes you feel proud of yourself and your character. Helping your fellow human beings and your community, is something that makes you feel very pleased. You feel you have the opportunity to offer and make the world a little better. This sensation increases your self-confidence and the satisfaction you get from life. And the better you feel about yourself, the more determined you are to chase your dreams.
- Reduces the likelihood of depression. One of the major risk factors for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in touch with other volunteers, improves your social networking network and increases the chances of getting to know new people. So if you're going through difficult times you will have all the necessary weapons to avoid falling into the trap of depression.
- Fills the life of the person with joy and meaning. Volunteering enables you to discover new interests in easy and fun ways. Delivering volunteer work to an organization of your choice relaxes, calms and fills you with energy for your everyday activities. In addition, it mobilizes you and gives you the power to hunt your personal and professional dreams. According to recent research results, volunteering can increase our happiness levels as much as doubling our salary!
- Improves social skills. As the person comes in contact with a small or large group of volunteers, he creates new relationships, enlarges his social network, and meets people with common interests with his own. There are many people who are particularly introverted and shy and have a lot of trouble making relationships. Volunteering enables them to improve their social skills and make friendships easier.
In many countries doctors as part of the therapy recommend volunteer work. An activity that pulls us out of the couch and out of the house helps in the best physical condition. Volunteering has been found in research to help promote healthier lifestyles, reduce body mass index, pressure, reduce stress, and improve depressive symptoms. What contributes positively to the above according to some research is not not so much a type of voluntary work but the time devoted.
Through volunteerism, social contacts are growing, opportunities for acquaintance with other people with whom we can develop friendly and/or partnership relationships. We have stronger relationships than relationships we maintain over the internet and this reduces loneliness. Volunteering is also considered to contribute positively to the mental health of people with severe mental disorders, helping them to better manage the situations.
We are social beings and we need to connect with other people. Even if we change places of residence or work through volunteering, we can connect with the new community in which we can find ourselves. Volunteering contributes to improving the quality of life of a community, a society through the greater connection of the inhabitants, mutual assistance and mutual support. It has been also found to help overcome tough times, helps to find ourselves again and to stand again on our feet, giving a sense of purpose. It increases satisfaction and self-confidence, increases the sense of effectiveness, improves the ability to carry out duties and activities of everyday life. We get more effective ways of dealing with different situations.
Through volunteering, we can have the opportunity to discover what we would like to pursue professionally, to strengthen and develop new skills, to learn new information, to gain experience in a new field, to strengthen social contacts that could help to find a job, to enhance our resume. Engaging as a family in voluntary activities helps to strengthen the bond of family members, parents become positive models for children, and through this participation children get values. Volunteerism can also help parents who find it difficult when their children leave home, retired people, and elderly people who spend a lot of time alone without a new occupation to find a new meaning, a new activity, to develop new ties with other people.
The benefits of volunteering are many and are not exhausted in what has been mentioned above. Materialistic culture and social rearrangements led man for a long time to an atomistic approach to life. Volunteering to the charitable organization of your choice gives you the opportunity to offer to the community, to enhance the positive attributes of your character, to improve your self-esteem and to experience unique experiences. Helping others essentially help your self.There are many ways, many organizations and goals to which one could participate. A simple search on the internet could help us find what suits us. Today, especially in the difficult life conditions, everyone could offer something to a minimum for someone who needs it in any way they can. Choose an action and if you do this with your heart this positive action will come back to you. Through Volunteering, you will help not only your fellow human beings, but also yourself at a personal, spiritual, natural and social level.