The Value of Volunteerism

The Rewards May Surprise You

BY OLIVIA SPIRITO

Volunteering is a selfless act that helps not only people in need but also yourself.

 

In high school, students are encouraged to volunteer for causes and organizations they feel passionate about. For many of these students, volunteering may seem like a resume builder, useful when applying to universities and obtaining a job. However, there are benefits we may not see, including some that relate to the Buddhist belief in the eightfold path of “right thought.”

 

A study published in Social Science & Medicine examined whether there is a connection between volunteering and greater use of preventive healthcare services. A sample of 7,168 American adults over the age of 51 who volunteered for more than two years found that they were 30% more likely to get a flu shot, 47% more likely to get a cholesterol test; and female volunteers were 53% more likely to get a mammogram.

 

The study also reported that volunteering impacts psychological, social, physiological and physical health (see diagram). Psychological health improves as stress levels decrease, resulting in calm, happy emotions and an ability to approach life as a whole rationally. Social health means getting involved and participating in causes along with other people who share common goals. With the decrease in stress levels and a more level-minded approach to life, physiological health can improve by decreasing a volunteer’s blood pressure and cortisol levels. Lastly, all these aspects of health ultimately influence a volunteer’s physical behavior to take advantage of opportunities and utilize health care.

 

Now, how does any of this connect to “right thought” in Buddhism? “Right thought” is a step in the eightfold path that promotes selflessness, love and non-violence. These thoughts create wisdom in all aspects of life. The most significant component of volunteerism is being selfless and loving in order to help others. I believe the Buddhist philosophy of “right thought” encourages acts such as volunteering to gain wisdom. The reason students should volunteer their time should be not just for their own future at a university or job, but to gain knowledge and experience to bring into life after high school. We can learn valuable lessons when we give up time for the benefit of others. Volunteering for a cause that we feel connected to can give us a sense of purpose. It is satisfying to help others and to see the positive contributions we can make to people’s lives.

 

I chose writing for the WiRED International website for my volunteer work in high school. I am inspired by the fact that WiRED is a volunteer-driven organization whose mission is to promote health education among low-resource communities worldwide.

 

I encourage everyone to find an organization and cause they care about and give some time to volunteer. Every volunteer experience allows you to gain knowledge and wisdom that will help you develop as a person. Volunteerism may also be the best prescription possible for improving your own health.

 

 

Olivia Spirito has served as a staff writer for WiRED International since August 2017. She will begin her first year of university this fall to major in health sciences on a track to prepare to become a physician assistant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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