April is Volunteer appreciation month. If you’re already volunteering, here’s to you! The impact of volunteerism can be felt in communities of all shapes and sizes. Wherever it occurs, volunteering exists to help others. But volunteerism’s best-kept secret is this: it’s good for you, too.

Why should you be eager to volunteer?

1. Volunteering boosts self-esteem.
Volunteering helps build a strong safety net for when you’re experiencing trying times. With those strong social ties, you’re always surrounded by a community that’s willing to help you out when times get tough. When you volunteer, you become a part of someone else’s safety net, too. By helping others, you’ll build a greater sense of trust and self-esteem.

2. It expands your connections.
The relationships you can create while volunteering are endless. You connect to others through volunteering, and if you do it regularly, you can maintain those valuable social networks into the future. With a larger social network, you’ll have more resources at your fingertips, which leads to better physical, mental and emotional health.

3. It makes you feel good.
If you’ve ever volunteered before, you’ve probably experienced this: volunteering makes you happy! Researchers at the London School of Economics found that people become happier by volunteering more. When you give your time to others, you attain a personal sense of accomplishment, which accounts for some of the positive effects that volunteering has on your mood. Volunteers who commit at least one or two hours every week reap the fullest benefits from their service.

4. It contributes to a longer life.
Volunteering does more than boost your mood—it also has effects on your physical well-being. Volunteers encounter greater longevity and less frequency of heart disease. Volunteers may be at a lower risk for memory loss, too. The social interaction can significantly reduce the progress of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Happier and healthier life? Sign up!

5. Volunteering gives purpose.
As people get older, they experience a higher risk for isolation. Volunteering combats that statistic by adding a sense of purpose to your life. The same goes for people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental illnesses. No matter who you are, there are plenty of ways to give your life new meaning by helping others.

6. Volunteering combats stress.
Volunteering goes beyond just being something fun to do; it decreases stress, too. Studies on the “Happiness Effect” of volunteering show that you become happier the more you volunteer. When you assist others, your body releases dopamine in the brain, which has a positive effect on how you feel. Volunteers also experience lower levels of depression.

7. It gives a good example.
Through sharing your service, you can inspire others. One of the best volunteer recruiting tools is a happy volunteer sharing their experiences with friends. Like a pebble dropped into water, successful volunteer stories create ripples that attract others to share their talents.

8. It teaches new skills.
Live a little! Volunteering gives you the opportunity to explore new skills and interests that you might not get to enjoy otherwise. You can broaden your horizons while helping others at the same time.

From improving your physical well-being to boosting your mindset, volunteering does a world of good. Most times, you can see the impact of giving your time right off the bat. If you haven’t gotten your start in volunteerism, there’s no time like the present.

With all the health perks associated with volunteering, there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t give it a shot. By helping improve your community, you’re also helping yourself. Once you get in the swing of things, you’ll be a happy and healthy volunteer in no time.

Adapted from the Non-Profit Hub, April 14, 2017