Mind your mind: Volunteering is good for your health

As an aspiring writer and voracious reader, I recently decided to join the Writer’s Exchange Society — a Canadian charity located in Vancouver which aims to get inner-city kids excited about both reading and writing.

I made the decision to join this particular non-profit organization because I believe that there are many benefits to volunteering — the main one being that by helping others, you are indirectly helping yourself.

So why is volunteering good for your health in terms of both your mind and body?

It's because human beings are wired for connection and we’ve all been taught that “sharing is caring.” It's because helping others can add meaning to our lives and provide a sense of purpose. And it's because spreading happiness and reaching out to others is a rewarding process that will make you feel good about yourself.

One advantage of volunteer work is that it provides you with the opportunity to enlarge your social circle as well as build leadership skills. You get to interact with people from all ages and backgrounds, and every single one of them has a different history. As a result, volunteering is ultimately an opportunity to gain more confidence by learning problem-solving skills in a variety of different contexts and environments.

On top of that, if you’re volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, you’ll get to meet other volunteers who share similar interests and hopefully a desire for change. In the case of the Writer's Exchange, I met a children's book writer and a cartoonist — and that was only during orientation! In this way, volunteering can be a chance to make new friends and connections with like-minded people, which is especially important considering that belonging to a community plays an important role in maintaining good physical and emotional health.

Volunteering breeds a sense of community, connection and compassion. It can be a great distraction from the dull routine of everyday student life and, as a bonus, will look great on a resumé. It can be as simple as giving a few hours of your time every month to a worthy cause you believe in. Animal shelters, hospitals, community centres and schools are always looking for volunteers. So think of your strengths and your current sets of skills, and how they could benefit other people. Don't forget— by helping others, you'll also be helping yourself.