By Jon Lal
If you’re like many of us, your New Year’s resolutions might look something like this: get healthy, lose weight, save money, travel more, find a new job or make new friends. In fact, there’s one way you can accomplish many of these things, often at once: by volunteering.
Volunteering your time, whether it’s in your community, your workplace or somewhere far across the world, is a wonderful way to give back. Volunteering is especially smart when it’s not in your budget to make a donation. Besides helping to better the lives of others, volunteering can have a lot of unexpected benefits on your own life, as well. Here are a few reasons, besides the obvious, why you might want to donate your time this year:
You can skip the gym:
Many volunteer opportunities require some physical activity. Becoming a committed volunteer could mean you’re regularly burning calories and working fitness into your lifestyle. A few examples include shoveling snow and raking leaves for the injured or elderly; working in a soup kitchen lifting boxes and serving the hungry; helping build and repair homes; walking dogs; community gardening and weed clean-up; or playing with kids in need of a role model and mentor. Consider canceling your gym membership and meeting your activity goals by volunteering a few times a week.
Improve your health:
There are even more proven health benefits to volunteering. The Corporation for National Community Service reports that those who volunteer have lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life. Research also shows volunteering can strongly benefit older individuals that are retiring by keeping physical and social activity high during this stage of life. In that way, even opportunities that are low impact can provide physical and mental health benefits.
No more costly mixers:
Hoping to meet new people this year? Whether you want to network with future colleagues or mingle with singles, the cost to attend events can be pricey. Ticket prices, beverages and membership fees can add up each month. Instead, join a community group dedicated to giving back. It’s much easier to meet new friends or potential dates when you’re working toward a common cause. As for rubbing elbows with potential colleagues, you can meet tons of like-minded volunteers and easily expand your network without paying a fee at the door.
Boost your resume and your worth:
Speaking of networking, volunteering can add impressive experience to your resume. Future employers value hard workers, commitment to a cause, and those that go the extra mile for additional career experience. Having volunteering in your background might mean future employers will give you additional responsibility, sending you a few steps ahead in your career path.
Travel on the cheap:
Though it means more of a lifestyle change, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities that allow you to travel for an extended period at little cost. Entire organizations exist that provide volunteers with free room and board in exchange for their work. If you’re passionate about the environment, this could be a wonderful way to give back and see the world all while doing important work protecting the planet. You can join a farming program, work on trail and park preservation or help after a natural disaster. Of course if this is something you’re interested in, calculate the costs in advance. You’ll likely still have to pay for airfare, a possible program fee and any vaccinations you might need before traveling.
Feeling inspired? I hope a few of these ideas help you think about your own goals in a new way. If you’re interested in volunteering but don’t know where to start, try VolunteerMatch to find opportunities in your area and organizations in need.