Want to Get Healthy? Volunteer!

Cynthia Bailey, MD|March 24, 2016

Volunteer_main

When we talk about getting healthy, we'll bring up topics like dietary habits or exercise. What we don't usually talk about is volunteering. Building up your health and volunteering might seem like apples and oranges, but what we've learned through studies - and through experience - is that helping others really can make you healthier!

To celebrate National Volunteer Week April 10-16, 2016, we've highlighted just a few of the many reasons volunteering is good for you. 

It can help you mentally

If you're struggling with depression or a sickness that keeps you feeling low, volunteering can take the focus off your circumstances and help you keep an eye on the big picture instead of focusing on the bad things going on. Stephanie Watson, in an article for Harvard Health Publications, explained that it can also help you ward off loneliness since it helps you connect socially. When you've fought a disease like cancer, volunteering in places that work with fellow cancer patients gives you a chance to build a supportive community. It could also help others navigate the difficult place you know so well since you were there yourself. Don't underestimate the power of paying it forward!

It can help you physically

We all know that getting up and moving is always a good thing. Whether you're standing at a table to give the public more information on your charity, moving boxes for a fundraising event or washing dishes at a shelter, you're out of your chair and moving around. For more motivation, read Why Exercise Helps Kick Cancer's A**.

According to Watson, volunteering can lower your blood pressure too.

"A growing body of evidence suggests that people who give their time to others might also be rewarded with better physical health—including lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan."

In an article in Pshychology Today, author Dawn C. Carr MGS, Ph.D., says it is beneficial to begin volunteering when you're younger to form a lifelong habit. 

"...during later life, volunteering is even more beneficial for one's health than exercising and eating well. Older people who volunteer remain physically functional longer, have more robust psychological well-being, and live longer."

It can help you spiritually

Ghandi wrote, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others." The zen of volunteering with a project or charity you believe in helps you experience a world bigger than yourself. Getting involved can bring you closer with others, building a connection that broadens your view of people with which you might not normally interact. Not to mention the fantastic inner feeling of peace that comes from doing your part to make the world a better place. It's such a simple move, isn't it? But, it can have a big impact on everyone involved. If you are looking to improve yourself this year whether mentally, physically or spiritually, volunteering is the way to go! It's all part of a lifestyle change. In Dr. Bailey's healthy eating guide called “How to Eat Your Way to Beauty and Health,” she explains how true health is more than just a diet and offers advice for getting started on a healthy lifestyle that benefits your skin and overall health. For more on this, download the free guide.

There are many different ways to get involved near you. To begin your journey, check out volunteermatch.comUnited We Serve or Points of Light. Dr. Bailey's favorite charity to volunteer with is FORCE, an organization that helped support her immensely as she faced her cancer diagnosis and treatments. Visit FORCE to learn more about how you can help victims battle cancer.

Where do you volunteer? How does it make you feel? We want to hear your story!

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