Volunteering over the Holidays

Even though the holidays are one of the best chances to spend time with loved ones, there are also countless opportunities to volunteer and lend a helping hand. Instead of getting caught up in gift giving, use this time to give back to those less fortunate.

Volunteering not only benefits others, but you’d be surprised at the benefits for yourself. Here are a few valuable reasons to volunteer this holiday season.

Chemical Reactions

A smile isn’t the only reaction that comes from helping others. There’s also a chemical response.

When you help others, you release “feel good” chemicals like serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin. These chemicals regulate your moods, give you a sense of pleasure and help you connect with others.

Longer Life

The secret to living longer may be giving more of yourself. Studies show that people who volunteer tend to live longer than those who don’t.

Boost Self-esteem

Giving can stimulate your brain’s mesolimbic pathway, or reward center, and release endorphins. This leads to a “helper’s high,” boosting self-esteem, elevating happiness and combating feelings of depression.

Nurture Relationships

One of the best ways to make new friends and strengthen existing relationships is to participate in a shared activity. Many times, volunteers have diverse backgrounds, expanding social networks and enhancing social skills.

Spread Holiday Cheer

While many of us may get stressed about family gatherings, think of the individuals who don’t have family nearby. Volunteer with veterans in your community, on a hospital ward, in a retirement home and in other places to help others feel less alone.

Lead by Example

Why not set a good example? Share your plans to volunteer, explain why you want to be of service and encourage others to join you.

Teens can especially benefit from helping others and learning about the world outside their neighborhoods.

Reaping the Rewards

Volunteering is not just working for free. You get just as much (if not more) than you put in. Aside from boosting your mood, you can make new friends, encourage your family and inspire others. Everyone benefits.

Remember, nonprofits need just as much help throughout the year. So even if you can’t find the perfect chance to give back during the holidays, there’s still plenty you can do year-round.