5 Ways Volunteering Benefits Your Mental Health


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Whether it’s coaching a little league team, feeding the hungry at a food pantry, or building a home for a family displaced by a natural disaster, without a doubt volunteering is something we should all do to help others in need. Although it is a selfless act, volunteering isn’t without its benefits. Here are five ways doing good does you good: 

1. Provides a sense of purpose or meaning. How often do we actually get to feel we are doing something that benefits the greater good? How many times have you been sitting at your desk at work or sitting in front of the TV at home thinking that you should be doing something different with your time? You can make a difference and feel good about what you are doing with your time by volunteering. If you enjoy cooking, possibly volunteering at a soup kitchen can help you see the people that eat and enjoy your food. Seeing the changes you make in others’ lives through volunteering can help you feel a greater sense of purpose. 

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2. Reduces feelings of isolation or loneliness 

Isn’t it hard to make friends as an adult? Volunteering can help you meet new people and not feel so lonely. You can meet people with similar interests and values as you. For instance, if you love animals, you can volunteer with your local shelter. Aside from the opportunity to interact with animals, especially if you’ve always wanted a pet but can’t afford or have time for one, this could also be a great way to meet people who love animals too. Spending time with people who enjoy the same things as you can lead to conversations and friendships outside of volunteering.  

3. Creates a sense of mastery 

Feeling useful and capable is important at all stages of life, especially in our younger years or as we age when we tend to feel less useful. But you can volunteer at any age or ability level. Volunteer in areas in which you feel confident. For example, if you are a retired accountant, it might be a good volunteer match to work with a program that provides tax prep to low income families and seniors. Feeling a sense of accomplishment can increase your overall self-esteem and help you in other areas of your life. 

4. Keeps you physically and mentally active 

Volunteering can entail many activities—making phone calls, sorting or organizing items, preparing items for pick up, cooking, data entry, and interacting with animals or other people. Often problems will arise and you will need to use your problem solving skills to figure out the best solution. These critical thinking skills are significant throughout our lives, from young children to the elderly.  

How many times has your doctor suggested that you be more active, but you find it hard to do activity with little purpose? Many volunteering activities will also require you to get up and move. Volunteering with children, for example, will guarantee you movement and make increasing your activity feel more useful and fun.  


5. Brings hope and helps you make a difference 

There are so many large world problems that we wish we could solve, but are too overwhelming or seem unfixable. Poverty, for example, is such a complex problem we couldn’t possibly fix it on our own or right away. However, providing food assistance through a food pantry can ensure that a family living in poverty will be fed today. Though we can’t solve the world’s problems easily or by ourselves, we can at least each make a small, positive difference in someone’s life and bring hope by making a small step towards fixing a larger problem. 

Interested in volunteering? Become a JFS volunteer! Several types of opportunities are available, including in the food pantry and office assistance. To sign up, contact us at 407-644-7593 ext. 249 or Volunteers@JFSorlando.org.

Want some more wellness advice? JFS Orlando’s licensed counselors are specialized in various areas and are here to support you in anything, from a major life transition to routine day-to-day life. Medicare, Medicaid and almost all commercial insurances are accepted. Call 407-644-7671 to schedule an appointment today! 

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW 

Author: Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW 

Ashlyn Douglass-Barnes, LCSW is the Clinical Therapist Supervisor and a licensed clinical social worker at JFS Orlando. Ashlyn has worked in a variety of settings including outpatient community based mental health, inpatient/admission psychiatric hospital, substance abuse/DUI, dialysis/medical, and in home/office outpatient therapy. 

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