When we think about health, the first few things that pop into our minds are often food or physical activity. While our minds are on the right track, there’s also one more thing we can do to keep ourselves healthy AND give back to our communities: volunteering.
Volunteering has been associated with better physical and mental health. Research has also shown that volunteering can lead to better health behaviors too. So what’s the link? For some volunteer opportunities, particularly the more physically demanding ones, the connection between volunteering and health is clear. After all, spending an afternoon or a full day planting trees or cleaning the beach is hard work! But for other activities, like working at a soup kitchen or making placemats for the elderly, the link may not be as obvious.
One reason volunteering benefits our health is the social connections we build when we help others. Whether we’re mingling with other volunteers, working with volunteer supervisors, or chatting with the local community members, we’re engaging with the community and the people in a meaningful way—and this can do a lot for mental and emotional well-being. These connections can also help with sharing and learning new information that steers us in a healthier direction too—for example, people may share information on where to buy the freshest groceries or when to get a flu shot.
Volunteering is something we can do at any age. In fact, there are many organizations around Boston that encourage you to bring your kids. Online resources like Project Giving Kids compile lists of opportunities at local nonprofits designed to connect families to service opportunities. Other organizations like Cradles to Crayons, Greater Boston Food Bank, Heading Home, and Community Servings all have times when kids can come with adults to volunteer.
So take some time after school or during the weekend to give back to your community, while having fun and improving your health!
Photo courtesy of Life360.com