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Giving Back: Why Giving is a Great Way to Receive

Giving Back: Why Giving is a Great Way to Receive

One of the best ways to improve your overall outlook is by volunteering in meaningful ways to issues that matter to you

One of the best ways to improve your overall outlook is by volunteering in meaningful ways to issues that matter to you. While giving money or materials can be very valuable, being personally involved by giving time and energy has benefits that are far more powerful.

Scientific Studies Prove the Benefits of Volunteering

A great number of studies have been undertaken in the past several decades to better understand how volunteering impacts the social, emotional and physical well-being of individuals. The following bullet points describe some of the most significant findings:[1]

  • Those who gave social support to others had lower rates of mortality than those who did not, even when controlling for socioeconomic status, education, marital status, age, gender and ethnicity.
  • A longitudinal study of older married adults found that those individuals who reported providing instrumental support to friends, relatives and neighbors had lower rates of mortality five years later than those who had not reported providing support.
  • A study of adults age 65 and older found that the positive effect of volunteering on physical and mental health is due to the personal sense of accomplishment that an individual gains from his or her volunteer activities.
  • Volunteering is directly related to a sense of purpose, both for older adults and for those building a new foundation for life based upon recovery principles.
  • Greater life satisfaction across all aspects of life is directly correlated with volunteering. There is also anecdotal evidence suggesting that physical faculties are increased and strengthened for those who regularly volunteer.

The Benefits of Volunteering Extend Beyond Scientific Study

Limiting the benefits of volunteering to only those items which can be proven via scientific research is unnecessary, particularly since so many benefits outside of scientific study can be clearly understood.[2]

  • Enrichment – There is inestimable value that can be gained on a personal level by volunteering. Consider the joy of seeing a children’s park that you helped to create, and of reconsidering the hard work and satisfaction each time you see the park. There is almost nothing that can compare to the sense of accomplishment that comes from such an experience. The accomplishment that is built in your heart through this type of enrichment is invaluable in developing a core of strength separate from a life of addiction.
  • Seeing the growth in those you serve – If you are actively involved in helping others through your volunteering, then you will have the opportunity to see their growth over time. If you are a reading tutor, you might see the people you are working with move from nearly illiterate to reading a full-length novel. The satisfaction of this growth is nearly unmatched, and will do much to provide you a rope to cling to during the difficult times in recovery.
  • Learning – Volunteering will give you the chance to learn new skills, or sharpen old ones. Instead of being unable to even know what a square joint is, you may find yourself able to build a house competently as part of a team with Habitat for Humanity. These skills will be encouraging for you, and will help you to further distance yourself from the life of addiction you have known in the past.
  • Friendship – One final and unexpected benefit of volunteering is the development of new friendships. As you work together with other volunteers, you will share common experiences. As a result of these experiences, you will form a bond with your fellow volunteers. This bond will provide you with strength and support during your recovery.

You Must Not Lose Sight of the Goal of a Sober Life

As with anything else, there are risks involved with giving of yourself in volunteering. The fundamental risk is that you might give too much, and not leave enough for yourself. This can unfortunately lead to a relapse if your volunteering leaves you without the capacity or strength to maintain healthy living choices that maintain your sobriety.

For this reason, it is vital to keep strong boundaries in place, even for volunteering. It is important to remember that you are still in a place of fragility, learning to develop healthier habits and stronger relationships in the context of the path of recovery.

If you feel like your strength is gone, there is support available. Even if you relapse, you are not alone. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about your substance abuse. They can help you find your way.


[1], “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research”, Robert Grimm Jr., accessed January 10, 2016.

[2], “4 Personal Benefits of Volunteering in Your Community,” accessed January 10, 2016.