"The rewards of acts of kindness are many. They help us feel better and they help those who receive them. We're building better selves and better communities at the same time."
- Dr. Waguih William IsHak, Professor of Psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
April is National Volunteer Month in the United States, and it is a time that we celebrate and appreciate the millions of volunteers nationwide that bring immeasurable good to the immediate and larger world around them. While we all know that by volunteering you can create and add value to the communities that you serve, did you also know that volunteering can bring benefits to your own mental and physical health?
Volunteering provides a great sense of purpose and fulfillment, and it can also be a source of social connection. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai have found that “acts of kindness can release hormones that contribute to your mood and overall well-being,” hormones such as oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin (Source: Cedars-Sinai, “The Science of Kindness”). Kindness as a practice leads to long-term exposure to these brain chemicals, which therefore contribute to long-term health benefits such as lower blood pressure and decreased stress. Lower blood pressure means a reduced risk of chronic diseases, improved cardiovascular health, and even increased longevity!
Volunteering stimulates your brain as you meet and work with new people, and it can help to keep the brain sharp. According to a 2009 study by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that seniors that participated in a volunteer program were shown to have improved brain and cognitive function as compared to seniors that did not participate in a volunteer program. So by volunteering, you will not only be making a positive impact on your community, but also be doing wonders for your own health and well-being!
If you're interested in volunteering, check out websites like VolunteerMatch or Idealist to find local opportunities in your area. You can also visit https://www.haloawards.org/award-recipients to learn about some of the organizations in Los Angeles County that are making a difference through volunteer work. Get involved today and experience the many benefits of volunteering! Happy National Volunteer Month!
Carlson, M. C., Erickson, K. I., Kramer, A. F., Voss, M. W., Bolea, N., Mielke, M., McGill, S., Rebok, G. W., Seeman, T., & Fried, L. P. (2009). Evidence for neurocognitive plasticity in at-risk older adults: The Experience Corps program. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 64A(12), 1275–1282. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glp117
The Science of Kindness. (2019, February 13). https://www.cedars-sinai.org/blog/science-of-kindness.html