An Ibis a day keeps the doctor away: The health benefits of volunteering

Jennifer Pham
Nov 27, 2019 · 5 min read

How do I live a healthier life? How do I reduce the stress in my life? What’s the purpose of life?

These are just some questions people will find themselves trying to seek the answers to for years and years. We live in a world where we seek only quick and early results, but when we don’t achieve that, we give up as fast as we started.

Well, what would you say if I told you that with just one word, I might have the answer to those questions? You probably wouldn’t believe me. This one word will only cost you three things.

1. Some time out of your busy lives, but honestly, we all can spare a few hours away from just mindlessly scrolling through our mobile devices.

2. Some energy, but trust me, it will be well worth it.

3. Possibly some money. I promise you a day or two without Starbucks will not kill you.

Drum roll, please! That word is philanthropy. Specifically, we’ll be focusing on how it relates to volunteering.

People usually volunteer with the intent to help others. Well, what if I told you that by helping others, you might be hitting two birds with one stone, by concurrently improving your well-being.

There is evidence that volunteering can positively impact your well-being, social life, stress, and depression. However, we still need more studies.

There are so many ways to get involved, whether it means dedicating some time to improve a patient’s stay at the hospital, walking dogs at the shelter, or contributing and participating with Token Ibis.

Understandably, not everyone has the luxury of time to spend on volunteering. Another outlet to contribute is via donating. However, the act of giving has to be done with generous interest and not with the hopes of getting a tax reduction. A project called Cognitive and Emotional Health Project — The Healthy Brain discovered that when participants donated their mesolimbic pathway (the brain’s reward center) were activated to release dopamine.

Poll results taken through VolunteerMatch show that more than 68% of volunteers stated that volunteering made them feel physically healthier. 92% volunteers agreed that it enriches their sense of purpose in life, 73% felt that volunteering lowered their stress levels, and 89% agreed that it improved their sense of well-being. And just an added statistic, 96% of volunteers stated that volunteering made them happier, but we’ll save the discussion regarding happiness for another article.

Volunteering promotes three types of activity: cognitive, social, and physical. These three behaviors feed neurological health and mental health, and in turn, affect cognitive functioning.

Let’s begin with cognitive functioning, where we define mental health as psychological well-being that encompasses concepts such as depression, anxiety, and self-efficacy. Two studies observed the effects of volunteering by comparing a group that reported not volunteering and a group that maintained a healthy relationship with volunteering. Researchers concluded that in the volunteering group, there was a lower likelihood of meeting the criteria for age-related cognitive impairment or decline that is associated with conditions such as dementia.

Several studies explored the physical health benefits of volunteering and concluded there are positive long-term effects to combat certain diseases. A paper published in 2013 that focused on the impact of volunteering on health and happiness of adolescents found that the group that volunteered had lower levels of inflammation and cholesterol and lower body mass index, all of which are markers for cardiovascular disease. Thus, the study concluded that perhaps 1 hour of volunteering per week would bring benefits to well-being.

Intervention studies have shown that volunteering increases older adults’ social interactions. Volunteers often report experiencing positive emotions, and with continuous social interactions, there is an elicitation of a sense of fulfillment and self-efficacy. Lower levels of depression, better self-rated health, and overall life satisfaction are associated with volunteering. All this can even translate to a better work-life balance.

The benefits of this increased socialization have an impact at the societal level as it promotes a sense of community, and simultaneously lessens the burden on social welfare.

Charles Darwin wrote in The Descent of Man that it is human nature to help others, so it only makes sense that there is a health benefit aspect when exhibiting philanthropy and volunteerism.

It’s easy; all you have to do is help someone. If you don’t have time, then donate. If you don’t have the money to give, Token Ibis is here to help.

Let’s take a young college student who does not have the means to allocate to philanthropy. Token Ibis gives that student the power to give back. By allowing that individual to give to a cause and being a part of the world of philanthropy, we hope that with time, perhaps that student will become more interested in volunteering. And that student will, too, be able to reap all the benefits discussed above.

We want to get the ball rolling for younger generations to participate in philanthropy.

And here at Token Ibis, the demographic we are trying to reach initially are students. Most of the studies performed already have a population base heavily oriented around the older generations, so it would be refreshing to see how the younger generations respond.

How about we end this with a challenge? The next time you face a situation where you can help someone out, no matter how small, like picking up litter off the ground or parting with spare change to give to a panhandler, I challenge you to embrace that feeling afterward. That feeling of lightness and genuine calmness resonating through your soul. Now imagine how exponentially great that would feel knowing you donated more to a great cause or joined a volunteering group that could help society or the environment on a much larger scale. Even if no one was there to pat you on the back afterward, I promise, no good deed goes unrewarded.

Thanks for reading! If you want to support our efforts to revolutionize the non-profit sector, the best way to do it is by sharing our content with the difference-makers you know. So please hit that 👏 button, share this story on social media, and don’t forget to tag us (@tokenibis on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook).

To learn more about the Token Ibis project, visit tokenibis.org.

Token Ibis

Creating a future where the capacity for social impact is a right and not a privilege

Jennifer Pham

Written by

Token Ibis

Creating a future where the capacity for social impact is a right and not a privilege

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