The wisdom of the ages reasserts itself only this time in the secular world. Various studies in medical journals of the past 20 years have proved conclusively that the compassion we share for others is returned to us in kind.
For starters, volunteering our time can
counter the harmful effects of isolation by helping us feel more connected. Depression isn’t the only danger of isolation. It also fills our bodies with cortisol
which impedes our cognition. Participating in a cause greater than ourselves is one way of lifting this isolation. It’s also an excellent opportunity to meet friends in like-minded people.
Stress in life is inevitable. The good news is that we can mitigate the effect
stress has on us through acts of service. Since most of our stress comes from trying to do more than we’re capable of, it can feel counterproductive to devote time to volunteering. The fact remains that our busy schedules would feel less overwhelming if we dedicated regular time to helping others.
Volunteering our time also increases our capacity to feel joy. In a study carried out between 2021 and 2022, The Journal for Happiness Studies
used data from 70,000 participants to measure the effect volunteering had on the population. It found that “people who volunteered at least once a month reported better mental health than those who volunteered rarely or not at all.” This evidence suggests the elusive key to true happiness may be deceptively simple.
There are even physiological benefits to giving our time. The endorphins released by volunteering provide us with a “helper's high
.” Conversely, a lack of human connection can put us at further risk of inflammation and heart disease by lowering our immune system. It’s almost as though our bodies evolved to work together.