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Whenever we discuss health topics, the focus primarily has always been somewhat personal – for instance, what we can do to keep our well-being at a 100 or how best can we improve our daily routines to prioritise health.
While that is great, how about we shift things a little by killing two birds with one stone? This time, let us delve deeper into positive efforts that not only will be a boon to our general wellness but also bring about benefits to others.
Yes, we are talking about volunteerism, or in other words the act of providing our time and energy for the benefit of other people and certain causes rather than financial gains. All it takes is the desire to help the society around you and perhaps a few moments on the internet to look up a suitable cause, and voila, you are set on the path of altruism.
There are a lot of benefits that derive from volunteering activities and they include both physical and mental rewards, as seen below.
Perks of volunteering
1) Good mood
Volunteering has the same effect as a good workout, in terms of dopamine release. According to researchers who measured hormones and brain activity, the feel-good vibes that an individual would get from both activities are similar, if not the same. According to the National Eczema Association, humans are hard-wired to give to others therefore: “The more we give, the better we feel.”
2) Improved health
While there is no conclusive result that pinpoints the absolute best volunteering activity to improve our health, several other studies have made the connection between volunteering and having lower blood pressure. According to Carnegie Mellon, all it takes is 200 hours of volunteering a year to reduce high blood pressure. Meanwhile others said that one can start gaining health benefits from as little as half of that.
3) Curbing depression
Mayo Clinic reported that volunteering is especially helpful in reducing the rates of depression for those aged 65 and older. This is simply because such activity promotes social interaction which could blossom into a support system that is built on mutual likes. These factors are known to combat depression. Additionally, when you are engrossed in helping others, it reduces the amount of stress that you are suppressing thus lowering risk of diseases.
4) Better cognitive function
Assistant Professor at University of Calgary Dr Yannick Griep found that those who volunteered regularly for at least an hour every week are less likely to be diagnosed with dementia between two to four years of their retirement. The participants of his study also reported “significantly fewer problems remembering things, fewer problems concentrating, less difficulty making decisions, and less difficulty thinking clearly”.
Volunteering activities that do wonders for health
1) Cleaning and caring for animals at the local shelter
Do you love animals? If yes, then this is the perfect volunteering exercise for you. Not only will you get to spend quality time with adorable furries at your local shelter, you will also get to help out with multiple tasks – from giving basic medication to clipping their nails. Either way, it sounds like you will put in a substantial amount of physical activities to get your own heart and blood pumping.
2) Making and distributing food at the local food bank or soup kitchen
There are a lot of people who are way less fortunate than us. Therefore, it is good to give back when you can. However, bear in mind that a good contribution doesn’t always come in the form of financial support. Head down to the local food bank or soup kitchen and help out. They would need help with preparing, packing and delivering the food to those in need. Now, doesn’t that sound like a gratifying workout?
3) Host a fundraising event
Whoever tells you that organising an event is easy, obviously has not run one themselves. It is definitely a workout – what with the planning, the delegation of tasks and the execution to ensure everything goes on smoothly. If you don’t know where to start in terms of volunteering, you can always host a fundraising event to collect money for a cause that is close to your heart.
4) Picking up trash and sprucing up your neighbourhood
Build a better relationship with your community members by organising a clean-up campaign for your neighbourhood. The best part is that you get to throw in music into the mix because let’s face it, everything’s more enjoyable with a good playlist, even picking up trash off the sidewalk. According to Health.com, you can burn as much as 102 calories in just 30 minutes of all that squatting and lunging.
Live your life to the fullest and remember that there is nothing more gratifying than the gift of giving. You only live once, therefore seize the day and make the most out of today. To add another safeguard in place, learn more about AIA សម្រាប់ជីវិត (Samrab Chivit), a life insurance solution that covers 26 conditions of critical illnesses and medical operations not only in Cambodia but also overseas. Contact AIA Client Care service at 086 999 242 or log on to to aia.com.kh to learn more.
Sources: Harvard Health, United Nations Volunteers, Help Guide, Mayo Clinic, World Health Organisation, PublicHealth.org, Volunteer in Cambodia, Charity Times, Next Avenue, Health.com, Black and Decker.