Volunteering and its surprising personal and professional benefits – Part 1

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Personal benefits of volunteering

A Gap Medics student helping a member of staff at Iringa Regional Hospital. Most people who volunteer do so for the satisfaction they get from the experience. Helping someone in need can be immensely rewarding and for a pre-med student it can be the cornerstone of a career that focuses on helping others in need. But listing just this one benefit of volunteering does not begin to do justice to the whole experience. It may not seem obvious at first but volunteering offers a slew of benefits both on the personal as well as on the professional front.  It is in fact a wonderful way to help others while you help yourself. It helps you find friends, learn new skills, reach out to the community and also helps protect your physical and mental health. It is a win-win situation that nobody can argue against.

 

Take a look at some of the surprising personal benefits of volunteering

 

It helps you expand your network and enhances your relationship and social skills 

Volunteering allows you to connect with all members of your community without all of the formalities that are otherwise associated with meeting new people. The informality of the introduction allows you to boost your social skills and grow your circle of friends and contacts at a pace that feels comfortable to you. This can be particularly important if you tend to be shy by nature. You are not forced into initiating a conversation or keeping the conversation flowing. You do things at your comfort level with the main focus on doing the work you volunteered for.

This is a great way to broaden your support network while learning about neighbourhood resources, getting to meet people with common interests and getting to know about the many fun and fulfilling activities in and around your neighbourhood.

 

It provides several benefits to your physical and mental health

Just going out there and participating in any volunteering opportunity that presents itself adds to your physical activity quota for the day and that beats sitting around on your couch any day! Studies have actually shown the relation between volunteering and reduced symptoms of heart disease and chronic pain.  

Volunteering also does a lot to boost your self-esteem and self-confidence and reduce the risk of depression. More often than not, social isolation has been found to be a major risk factor for depression. When you volunteer it keeps you in regular contact with other volunteers and helps you develop a strong support system that can help protect you against depression when you are going through challenging times.

On the other hand, doing things for others instantly provides a natural sense of accomplishment, satisfaction and pride, and the better you feel about yourself the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals. 

 

In Part 2, we discuss the professional benefits of volunteering 

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