Volunteer to Increase Your Health and Happiness

Volunteering in-person or virtually can improve your recovery in several ways. You will avoid unwanted thoughts or behaviors by donating your time to a good cause and build a healthy new routine that involves serving others through hard work. Clinical research studies have reported many advantages to regularly volunteering, including:
  • It keeps you busy and distracted from unwanted thoughts and behaviors
  • You learn new marketable skills 
  • The routine can help you lower stress and anxiety
  • Increased positivity and better moods
  • You will notice improvements to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being
  • You will connect with people within your community and build relationships
  • Discover new interests and create a healthier future for yourself 
The principle of serving others is popular among 12-Step and other recovery groups. Volunteering can decrease your overall stress, which lowers the risk of relapse. You might feel hesitant about spending your free time with strangers, but in exchange, you experience the following:
  • A sense of accomplishment that comes from creating a safer community
  • Support and encouragement
  • A feeling of belonging and acceptance 

The Health Benefits of Helping Others

You can make a difference in the lives of people around you while improving how you feel. A 2017 study on the benefits of volunteering concluded that "participation in voluntary services is significantly predictive of better mental and physical health" and facilitates the following:
  • Increased life satisfaction and ability to function
  • Better self-esteem
  • Higher rates of self-reported happiness
  • Decreased depressive symptoms and psychological distress
  • Lower mortality rates
  • Lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease or stroke
Additional research published by the Department of Homeland Security "discovered that of the people surveyed who volunteer, 88% noted improved self-esteem, 93% noted an improvement in their mood, 75% felt physically healthier, and 34% could manage their chronic illnesses better." Volunteering is an excellent way for individuals with chronic co-occurring conditions to build up new routines that leave them feeling better. Many types of volunteer positions exist, and you can find one that fits perfectly with your lifestyle — volunteer doing something you enjoy and increase the positive changes. 

Common Types of Volunteering

Not everyone has previous experience volunteering. If you are unfamiliar with finding and applying for volunteer opportunities, do not worry. The process is straightforward. During treatment, your case manager can help you with this goal. After treatment, you can start with people you know by asking your therapist, friends, family, and doctor about places they are aware of that need volunteers. You can even reach out to clubs or organizations if you have a particular interest in certain activities; they may have volunteer opportunities available.  A few common types of volunteer services include: 
  • Mentoring young people in the arts like music, drawing, and digital art
  • Helping disadvantaged students with homework or learning job skills
  • Teaching English as a second language
  • Assisting at a local shelter or food bank
  • Public events involving sports 
  • Spending time with lonely elderly individuals in assisted living facilities 
  • Programs like "Meals on Wheels" where you ensure elderly or disabled individuals in your community get assistance with food and transportation 
  • Volunteer to socialize or help rehome abused animals 
  • Spend time helping a political campaign you care about
  • Help keep your community eco-friendly through environmental work
The internet has substantially increased the number of available volunteer opportunities and made them easier to find. You can virtually walk a young adult through their English homework or enhance photographs for a non-profit in another country. The possibilities are endless. A few of the places you can look for in-person and online volunteer positions include the following: 
  • Churches
  • Online forums
  • Community Newsletters
  • Facebook and other social media sites
  • Therapy and doctor offices
  • Online or community notice boards
  • Online volunteer matching sites like the website “Catch a Fire”

The Importance of Role Models 

Role models are an essential part of recovery. You can look up to others and watch how they navigate difficult moments to learn new skills for overcoming challenges. What you do matters, and by selflessly giving up your time and energy to assist others, you can inspire sober peers at various stages in their recovery. Show younger individuals in your community what it looks like to live a healthy and sober life.  Be an inspiration for members of your community and sober peers by choosing to make a difference in the lives of others. You only need to dedicate a few hours a month to start noticing fundamental changes in how you think and interact with others. Give yourself and the people you serve an opportunity to grow from the experience.  When you return home after treatment for substance use disorder, some challenges you face include filling the time you have with healthy alternative activities. Volunteering is one way you can change your routine to accommodate serving others while looking after your health. While at White House Recovery and Detox, your case manager can help you learn about volunteer opportunities in your local community and get their contact information, so you have plenty of options to choose from when you complete your program. If you participate in any part of 12-Step facilitation therapy during treatment, finding a space to serve others is a natural part of continuing that type of therapy. You can join a local 12-Step group or use any of a dozen other options for finding a place to volunteer. Learn more about White House Recovery and Detox and the services we offer. Contact us today by calling (800) 510-5393.