A group of researchers recently concluded that the public health, social service, and medical worlds would be wise to encourage volunteering as part of a healthy lifestyle. To those of us who engage in regular humanitarian efforts, it probably comes as no surprise that philanthropy is beneficial. However, most of us do not realize the extent of its impact. Over the years, quite a few researchers have explored the effects volunteering can have on the volunteer. On average, people who volunteer experience better physical health than those who do not participate in community service. One example of this is a correlation between volunteer hours and decreased blood pressure. As little as 100 hours of volunteering annually may significantly decrease your blood pressure. Even more interesting, the results on much of the research were only true if the volunteers were motivated by altruism — and not to meet any type of requirement or personal gain. In addition, research has seen an increase in the average life span for those who volunteer from the heart and a decrease in pain intensity in those with chronic pain or serious illness who engage in regular volunteering. Beyond physical health, volunteering connects us to people with similar values and interests, gives us a sense of purpose, allows us to develop valuable and applicable skills, builds confidence, and offers us perspective. Researchers have found significant decreases in levels of stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression for those who engage in philanthropic endeavors. Volunteering is also associated with improved social skills and increased self-confidence related to gaining a sense of being needed, having a purpose and feeling valued and accomplished. With all of these benefits there is no need to wonder why researchers have suggested it as a part of a healthy lifestyle. If supporting mental health care holds a special place in your heart, I invite you to our 10th Annual Crawfish Boil on Saturday, April 4, from 1-5 p.m. at West Alabama Ice House, either as a patron or volunteer. The proceeds from this event will help Nick Finnegan Counseling Center, further its mission to provide affordable and accessible counseling services to anyone regardless of differences such as age, finances or beliefs. If you are interested in attending or volunteering at the event, call Natalie Lowry at 713-402-5127 or visit: finnegancounseling.org/crawfish-boil.
By Tracy Lehman, LMFT