Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Benefits of Volunteering

People who volunteer are typically unanimous in touting the benefits. But volunteers are unpaid, contribute many hours of potentially free time to the organization, and sometimes need to provide their own supplies at personal cost. So what is the benefit?

All behavior is goal-driven. Everything we do has a payoff for us so even the most altruistic person receives a benefit for their efforts. Here are a few reasons why volunteering benefits the individual as much as it does the organization.

First, volunteering bolsters self-worth which is an important component of healthy self-esteem. When an individual has high self-worth they believe that everything they think, feel, and do matters and has a ripple effect in the world. They understand that they have a very unique contribution to make, one that no one else can accomplish in exactly the same way.  Volunteering reinforces this belief in self and the importance of every contribution.

Second, volunteering improves our relationships because it fosters compassion. Volunteering often places us in different situations, where we interact with different individuals, than we typically do. This allows us to discover that while people are very unique, they have much in common.  Volunteering exposes us to the diversity in the world which, in turn, builds respect for differences and improves our ability to relate to others.

Third, volunteering increases positive thinking because it promotes interconnectedness and interdependence. Negativity, despair, and depression build when we detach from social contact and focus too much on ourselves. Volunteering brings us out into the community where we direct our energies on improving humanity as a whole. We recognize that our small part matters and has an effect which radiates out into society.

These are only a few reasons why volunteering has such a positive impact on the individual. Try it yourself! Select an organization which interests you and explore opportunities to volunteer. You’ll see your life change for the better.

Ellen Diana is a psychologist, author of the Lucky Dreamer Tip Series, and co-author of the Charge up Your Life series of self-help books. She has 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Scottsdale, Arizona. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website

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