Whether at the UBC campus or across the Lower Mainland, being a member of any large community can be isolating. It can be difficult to establish connections with others while balancing our daily responsibilities; however, these connections are an integral component of our social health. Being socially healthy is just as important to our overall wellbeing as exercising or eating right. However, this idea of social health is definitely more abstract than knowing to eat 7-8 servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
After doing some reading, I have narrowed the list down to one tangible thing that we can do to foster social connections, and in turn, bolster our wellbeing: give back through volunteering.
One way to combat feelings of isolation or loneliness is to get involved with an organization that gives back to others. Volunteering not only serves as a way to expand our social network, but it lets us to spend time with people who have similar interests.
The Health Benefits of Volunteerism
• Volunteering positively impacts our psychological wellbeing as it can help us feel better about ourselves.
• Volunteering provides opportunity for meeting new people in new settings, which results in positive mental health effects.
• Helping others is a self-validating experience: knowing we can make a difference in the world can serve as protection against depression.
• Community participation through volunteering has been shown to boost self confidence and self-esteem
• Giving back to the community through volunteering can reduce feelings of alienation and lead to greater feelings of social responsibility.
The benefits do not stop there, nor are they limited to individuals. According to the United Nations, “volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation”
As Canadians, we seem to be headed in the right direction when it comes to our social health. In 2010, 47% of Canadians 15 years and older were involved in volunteer work. Statistics also show that people who are involved in community activities as children are more likely to become involved in volunteering and service organizations as adults. This provides a great motivation for involving our children and family members in our volunteer activities.
Visit the Go Volunteer site to find listings of opportunities in your area, or start now by participating in the My Health My Community Survey project.
Jones, F. (2000). “Community involvement: the influence of early experience.” Canadian Social Trends. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 11-008. No. 57.
Miller, K. D., & Schleien, S. J., Rider, C., Hall, C. , Roche, M., and Worsley, J. (2002) Inclusive Volunteering: Benefits to Participants and Community. Therapeutic Recreation Journal. Vol. 36, No. 3, 247-259.
Piliavin, Jane Allyn, & Siegl, Erica. (Dec., 2007). Health Benefits of Volunteering in the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 48, No. 4 pp. 450-464.
Wilson, John. (2000). Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26, pp. 215-240.