Years of corporate culture have transformed what was once a heartfelt way of giving back to local communities into little more than an accolade for future CVs. Yet, in light of ongoing global issues, volunteer groups have reestablished themselves as vital and necessary parts of society. Danny Swersky says that for those involved, it’s more than just a line on a resume—it provides a sense of purpose, community, and even happiness.
Research has even gone so far as to study the benefits of volunteering, not just for recipients but for the individuals who dedicate their time to the needs of others. The findings are clear volunteering is a crucial step toward the pursuit of happiness. To understand why this is so, Daniel discusses how volunteering contributes to positive mental health and creates a sense of unity.
Volunteering as an Ethical Act
“It is of course required of a man that he should benefit his fellow-men — many if he can; if not, a few; if not a few, those who are nearest; if not these, himself.” – Seneca On Leisure 3.5
Philosophers have pondered for thousands of years what it means to be truly happy. While some have argued that joy is rooted in senseless abandon, others have maintained that mindfulness, strict moral codes, and personal exploration are necessary to finding contentment. For the Stoics, though, altruism was an ethical duty, and, without it, no man could find happiness.
This philosophy has been echoed throughout the years with psychologists, sociologists, and philanthropists all arguing for the benefits of social outreach. According to their works, by giving of themselves, volunteers experience a greater sense of place and purpose that fosters contentment in their lives.
It’s the ethical sense of doing what’s right to help a fellow human that generates warmth and care through society. And, according to researchers, this has a direct impact on mental health and happiness.
Connects People from Diverse Backgrounds
Behind the purely ethical benefits, researchers have also explored how social connection through volunteering helps to create a greater sense of inclusion. This is especially true for older volunteers who may feel isolated from their communities. By working with others to support those in need, volunteers are able to build new relationships that span different ages and backgrounds.
People from all walks of life can come together, share their experiences, and unite to offer greater support to the disenfranchised. This promotes a sense of understanding and a greater appreciation for the plight of others, as well as fostering a new outlook on otherwise divided communities. Taken all together, this can contribute to feelings of living a fuller life.
Volunteering should never be seen as a way to gain favor in the corporate world. Instead, it should be treated as a way to give back while only receiving the happiness and satisfaction of doing the right thing. By understanding how volunteering can contribute to mental health and contentment, we can all appreciate the importance of social outreach in our daily pursuits of happiness.