Volunteering towards ones health

By | Health & Wellness
Eleanor Bentall RSPB Images


Research from Carnegie Mellon University has shown that volunteering, a way to help others, may be a way to help yourself in more ways than one.

Rewarding feelings may be experienced when helping others and the prospect of building relationships with people from various communities and backgrounds – it has now been proven to have an additional impact on physical health. The research, published in the Psychology and Aging journal, followed over 1,000 adults between the ages of 51 and 91, and demonstrated that volunteering benefits the heart, however reduces mortality by nearly half.

Volunteering for at least 200 hours led participants to be 40% more effective for blood pressure challenges than those who gave far from a lot of themselves. Rather than the type of work undertaken, it was the amount of time that was most significant on findings and suggests that the more time spent volunteering, the larger the effect on physical health.

Rodlescia Sneed, a leading author in psychology states “participating in volunteer activities may provide older adults with social connections. There is strong evidence that having good social connections promotes healthy ageing and reduces the chance for a number of challenging health outcomes.”

Sneed’s evidence suggests that as people get older and experience retirement or bereavement, for example, they may be left without social interaction. Volunteering, with social interaction at its core, relieves challenging emotions which are one cause of hypertension. This may be one reason why volunteering has such a powerful effect on reduction of blood pressure.

Research also demonstrated how donating time may improve psychological well-being, and even reduce the chance of having challenging with having positive mood. Volunteering may keep one active by adding non-exercise activities to lifestyles. For this reason, volunteering may benefit older adults more readily however continues to be essential for optimal health in all ages.

Volunteering may also improves health and lifespan by giving the volunteer a sense of purpose and meaning. Additionally, it releases the hormone oxytocin – the so-called ‘love drug’ – in your body while simultaneously reducing hormones that cause challenging emotions, including cortisol. This process may lead to what many call a ‘helper’s high’. Some experts, including former NASA director Joan Vernikos, even believe it may be more important than regular exercise.

Researchers have concluded that “there is a significant relationship between volunteering and productive health; when individuals volunteer, they help their community along with also experience better health in later years, whether in terms of greater longevity, higher functional ability, or [productive results with challenging emotions].”

For the good of ones community and ones own physical and emotion health, volunteering may be something that each one of may consider to get involved in.

Interested in volunteering? Here is one organisation that may be of interest: http://www.rspb.org.uk

How may volunteering give a community a stronger sense of wholeness and health?



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