Four Ways Volunteering Can Make a Happier, Healthier You

Ilya Ushakov

Director, Programs & Volunteerism

We’re delving into a unique element of volunteering on our blog each day during National Volunteer Week. From reflections on wellness to explorations of new trends, check back each day for a different take on how volunteering continues to make the world go round. Today’s post is Part 2. Click to read Part 1 and Part 3.

It’s hard to imagine, but there are many out there who have little to no human interaction throughout their day. Even in the best of times, social isolation is sadly far too common in our communities. In many cases, volunteering is the only outlet available for people to connect, build relationships and create the space for that much-needed human interaction to occur. 

Volunteering is not only vital to the success of our communities; it can be a key ingredient in personal wellness as well, and it can impact individuals in myriad ways.

The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is part of the Wellness Network here in Edmonton. The Wellness Network is a group of community partners working together to provide individuals or families with as many options as possible to help achieve and maintain personal wellness. 

The network’s mission is to connect people to resources and programs, encouraging self-directed exploration to enhance and maintain optimal wellness. Wellness can be divided into a number of dimensions: emotional, physical, spiritual, career and academic, social and culture, and environmental.

So, how exactly does volunteering play into some of these dimensions?

Emotional Wellness

Researchers at the London School of Economics examined the relationship between volunteering and measures of happiness. They found that the more people had volunteered, the happier they tended to be. The odds of being “very happy” rose 7% among those who volunteer monthly and 12% for people who volunteer every two to four weeks.

Volunteering makes you feel good! There is no better feeling than knowing you have made a positive impact. Helping others and giving to a good cause have enormous benefits on your emotional health.

Career & Academic Wellness

Volunteering is a great way to gain valuable work experience. Many, if not most, volunteer roles provide opportunities to hone skills or learn new ones. Often these translate into marketable skills and experience to include on your résumé for your next job search. Volunteer experience also plays a significant role in many scholarship applications.  

Meeting your career and academic goals is hugely important to our wellness. It means landing that perfect job opportunity, boosting your knowledge and skills, and ultimately make a satisfying income to support yourself and add purpose to your daily life.

Social & Cultural Wellness

Your next best friend could very well be waiting for you at your next volunteer gig! Each volunteer shift is a chance to meet new people and make new friends. If you’re learning English, volunteering can be a less stressful place to practice and learn in a more social and comfortable environment. 

Of course, a city like Edmonton is home to a massively diverse array of people. Whether you are a newcomer or you’ve lived here for decades, volunteering is a wonderful opportunity to learn about different cultures and customs and share your culture with others.

Physical Wellness

Volunteering is one of the healthiest and most energizing activities you can do. Having a volunteer role sets aside time to get out of the house and get moving. Many volunteer activities involve being active on your feet and help you engage in a healthier lifestyle. 

We may be largely confined to our homes for the time being, but once physical distancing measures are lifted, volunteering can be that excuse to get moving and out of the house.

How has volunteering contributed to your wellness? We would love to hear from you! Join the conversation on social media using the hashtags #NVW2020 and #yegvolunteers.

Itching to volunteer? Check out VolunteerConnector, an online database that can help you find volunteer opportunities across the province. Although tranditional volunteer roles are scarce these days, many charities are now offering modified roles and virtual volunteering opportunities. 

And of course, dial 2-1-1 if you’d like to speak with somebody about finding a volunteer opportunity that works for you.