We all know that volunteering helps others. Whether it’s rocking newborn babies going through drug withdrawal in the hospital, shelving books at the library, serving up soup to the homeless, or cleaning the cages of homeless kitties living at an animal shelter, volunteering makes a difference in the lives of those you’re helping. What you might not know is that volunteering can make a difference for the person doing it, too. If you are a teenager trying to find something to fill your time and help you benefit your own life, here are some of the ways that volunteering can be the answer you’ve been looking for.
Volunteering Helps Teens Meet and Interact With Others
You probably know a lot of people, between school, church, your part-time job, or wherever else you spend your time. Chances are, however, that you tend to hang out with people who are roughly your age and who roughly share your socioeconomic status. They might also tend to share your views. When you volunteer, you’ll find that you’re spending time with those who are older or younger than you and who might have a very different perspective on life. You’ll interact with the people you’re helping as well as the people who have also volunteered for your chosen organization.
For a teen who is shy or who does not make friends easily, volunteering might be just what you need to meet people and to have a ready-made topic of discussion. This can make it easier to communicate and it can help you develop social skills that will help you throughout your life.
Volunteering Helps Round Out College and Job Applications
If you plan on attending a college or university, you will need to show that you are well-rounded in your application. Part of your application will be your grades, of course. Leadership roles and awards are important components. So are extracurricular activities such as sports, the drama club, band, and other clubs, groups, and teams. Your part-time job, if you have one, might be considered. A volunteer position is another great addition to your college applications. This shows that you take initiative, that you have been developing skills outside of what’s required for school, and that you enjoy helping others.
If you aren’t planning on going to college, volunteering can help you, too, when it comes to filling out job applications. Young people often don’t have much career experience to include on their resumes and applications. A volunteer position is the perfect activity to take the place of some job experience. This is particularly true if it pertains to the type of job that you are pursuing. Even if it doesn’t, it can still help; employers look for those who strive to do more than the minimum and who are helpful and kind.
Volunteering Can Raise a Teen’s Self-Esteem
Do you ever suffer from low self-esteem? You might be surprised to learn that volunteering can improve the way you think about yourself. One reason is that you naturally feel good when you help others. When you can see the difference that you’re making in someone else’s life, you will be happy that you are able to make such an impact. If you have doubted your ability to make a big impact on someone’s life, volunteering is a great way to assure yourself that you are important and that you can help others.
Volunteering gives you a sense of belonging and can help you find purpose in your life. In addition, it can help you build up and participate in a social network of support. All of these factors will give you more self-confidence, which will follow you into your adult life and make you more likely to succeed at whatever you may choose to do. Volunteering can also give you some direction and encourage you to make goals.
Volunteering Can Boost a Teen’s Overall Health
You might not realize the positive effect that volunteering can have on your health, both mental and physical. Helping others can reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, for example. Part of the reason is that building up a social network of like-minded individual, the way people often do when they volunteer, can help stave off mental illnesses. Volunteering can also reduce your stress as you put your focus on someone or something other than your own troubles.
While many teens don’t worry about blood pressure, studies have shown that volunteering can help lower high blood pressure. For teens, in particular, a study has shown that it can also reduce BMI (body mass index), inflammation, and cholesterol levels. Volunteering is good for your heart in more ways than one!
How to Reap the Benefits of Volunteering
If you don’t already have a cause that you’re passionate about, it might be difficult for you to decide on a volunteer opportunity. You might not even know where to start! Keep in mind that you don’t have to make a long-term commitment to a particular organization. Start small: Sign up for a shift lasting only a few hours so you can decide if you like a particular opportunity. Also, don’t give up too easily. There might be a learning curve involved, and you might need a few shifts to get the hang of how the volunteers work together.
Consider the types of tasks you like and who you might like to help. You could work with babies, young children, other teens, adults, or the elderly. You might have a soft spot for the homeless, injured veterans, or children who are having trouble learning to read. Environmental causes are great, too: You might want to plant a community garden, beautify the grounds of a church or a hospital courtyard, or help care for homeless or abused animals. Ask your guidance counselor for ideas if you’re having trouble coming up with one.
With all of the benefits of volunteering, it’s something you should strongly consider pursuing this year. Talk to your parents or other adults in your life for help and inspiration when it comes to choosing the opportunity that’s right for you.