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If you’ve considered volunteering but haven’t actually done it for whatever reason, you might be swayed to do some research and start volunteering when you realize all the benefits that it can have for you. As it turns out, volunteering isn’t exactly selfless, after all.

Research has found that volunteering can help your mental health in the following ways.

  • Reducing stress by redirecting your focus to other people or animals
  • Minimizing depression by distracting your mind from destructive or critical thinking, especially toward yourself
  • Increasing your social and professional network and reducing feelings of isolation
  • Boosting confidence through mental stimulation and skill growth
  • Giving a sense of meaning and a source of pride
  • (Re)kindling passion for a cause or activity and providing outlets to learn more, sometimes through mentoring and guidance at the hand of an expert
  • Creates a sense of happiness by boosting feel-good hormones

These perks can benefit everyone, but they can be especially helpful for people who find themselves at a crossroads or in a new stage of life such as divorcees, retirees, and empty-nesters. Furthermore, volunteering may be a useful part of a person’s mental health arsenal in addition to other skills and tools.

How do you ensure that you’re getting the most out of your volunteering? Choose activities that are rewarding and causes about which you feel passionate. The time you spend volunteering should be something you look forward to and not just another checkmark on your to-do list.

Local, national, and even global websites along with the United Way can connect those people who wish to volunteer with opportunities to do so that match their interests, personality, and skills. These databases can connect individuals or those who want to volunteer with groups of friends and family.

Potential volunteers shouldn’t let disabilities, transportation, or other situations stop them from inquiring. There are even online volunteering opportunities, and arrangements may be made for in-person opportunities.

Spending 2 to 3 hours per week engaging in those activities seems to be the sweet spot. Of course, some people may want to volunteer even more of their time to worthy causes after experiencing the benefits.