Five ways volunteering makes you happy
Published: 20 June 2019
Did you know that volunteering for a great cause like the Heart Foundation can increase your happiness and health? Doing good for others is also good for you.
It’s National Volunteer Week (June 16 – 22) and this year’s theme is “whiria te tangata – weaving the people together”.
That’s something that’s really important to us here at the Heart Foundation – because looking after your heart isn’t just about healthy food, exercise, and heart pills. It’s also about your emotional wellbeing, your connections with others, and your sense of purpose in life.
And guess what? Volunteering is the perfect way to meet some of those emotional needs. When you volunteer, it doesn’t just help others, it helps you - and your heart - as well.
Don’t just take it from us though. Research into volunteering has proved it. Here are some of the ways being a volunteer makes you happier and healthier.
Why should I volunteer?
1. It gives you a sense of purpose
Many volunteers say that they feel a greater sense of purpose. It’s easy to see why. From giving back to a community, to spending your time doing something productive, and learning new skills. There are so many ways that volunteering can help with this.
Why does this matter? Because having a sense of purpose, is not only important for your wellbeing, a recent study showed that having a sense of purpose in life is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease (any disease involving the heart or blood vessels, like heart attack or stroke).
2. It can keep you active and, as a result, healthier
We all know being active is good for your body and your mind. In fact, 76% of people that volunteered in the last 12 months, said they felt healthier as a result. Plus, a 2013 American study showed that people who volunteered were less likely to have high blood pressure.
Lots of volunteer roles rely on you to get up and get active. Don’t worry, we won’t make you run a marathon (although you can if you want to). There are lots of other jobs that will keep you moving. Even making the trip into your local Heart Foundation office, to help with admin or an event is a good way to get up and out of the house.
3. It’s social
A sense of belonging and good relationships are important for personal happiness. For many volunteers, the benefits are social – it’s a way of getting involved in your local community. The more voluntary work you do, the more people you’ll get to meet. It’s the perfect way to meet like-minded friends. What’s more, social support helps recovery following a heart attack or other heart event.
4. Volunteering is universal
Ever get the feeling you’re part of something ‘big’ when you volunteer? That’s because you are! Volunteering happens all over the world. There are 1.2 million people who volunteer in New Zealand alone – that’s more than a quarter of our population. Think about that. Thousands of people spend their time trying to make things better for other people.
5. You’re making a difference
This one’s kind of obvious – but it’s so important it’s worth repeating. When you volunteer you actively making a positive difference in the world. No matter how big or small, that’s awesome.
When our Heart Foundation volunteers help at their local office, collect funds for heart disease research, or share their personal journey with heart disease, they’re helping to save lives and support others with heart disease. No wonder volunteers feel good.
What’s it like to volunteer at the Heart Foundation?
Wondering what it’s like to volunteer for us? We asked some of our experts…
Carolyn has been a volunteer in the Nelson-Marlborough branch for about eight years. She coordinates a heart help support group at a rest home, helps with information sessions, and distributes donation boxes to local shops. As someone who hasn’t experienced heart disease herself, she says it’s great to be out in the community helping to prevent it.
“I really enjoy being out in the community, meeting people and educating them about heart disease.”
What’s more, she says she’s healthier for it.
“Averil (the local Heart Foundation heart health advocate) has got me much more active than I was. I was quite unfit at 40 but I do more exercise now.”
After having a heart attack ten years ago, Sunny wanted to help others affect by heart disease. He has shared his heart attack story for our Journeys programme and is fundraising for us as one of our Heart Racers at the 2019 ASB Auckland marathon.
“I wanted to share my experiences with those in similar circumstances and tell them that having a heart attack isn’t the end of the world. You can have a new life and a new journey. I also wanted to bring awareness to the public about heart disease.”
Sunny Naidoo - Heart Foundation volunteer
Trish, a senior nurse lecturer, volunteers her time in the Wairarapa, presenting health and nutrition information sessions in the community, helping at local events, and collecting for our annual appeal.
“I feel so appreciated for the things that I do for the Heart Foundation and that’s a really nice thing. Plus it’s a cause that people are really supportive of – everybody knows someone who has been affected by heart issues of some kind.”
Janice has been a volunteer for the South Canterbury branch for 10 years. She is currently the chairperson and treasurer of the local Heart Foundation support group, which runs fundraising events throughout the year. Janice has also shared her story with our Journeys programme. As well as making good friends through her volunteering, it’s also provided her an opportunity to give back to her community.
“I believe that we all should give back something to a voluntary organisation. I got involved with the Heart Foundation after my heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery. It’s good to be able to pass on my own experience to others, because when it happens it’s all unknown, you really don’t understand what’s happening.”
Judith became a volunteer in our Waikato Branch after seeing the support received by her parents and brother for their heart issues. Like many of our volunteers she does lots of different jobs – from making heart-healthy sandwiches for events to stuffing seatbelt cushions for people after heart surgery, and pretty much everything in between.
“I enjoy the 'drop in' times, where I catch up with the working team and with the other volunteers,” says Judith. “The little jobs are never onerous and are always a help the team, or those in need. I, also, am granted the opportunity to listen and learn, in public seminars, from professionals about advances being made and the new procedures and technologies being used. Knowing about being heart healthy and making an effort to be heart healthy will hopefully, reduce or distance me by a little, from that possibility.
These are comments from just a few of the hundreds of wonderful people who donate their time and energy to the Heart Foundation every year.
What’s more, their volunteering isn’t just good for them – it’s vital to us. We couldn’t do our work without them. Because it’s going to take all of us, working together, to stop the ones we love dying too soon from heart disease.
How can I volunteer for the Heart Foundation?
There are lots of ways you can volunteer for the Heart Foundation. These include helping in the local office, working at events, fundraising, or by sharing your story of heart disease.
If you do, you’ll be part of a team of hundreds helping to stop New Zealanders dying early from heart disease.Find out about volunteering for us