PUBLISHED: 4:52 PM on Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Volunteering for happiness
American Red Cross
We have all heard it before, and as volunteers, we have felt it - volunteering makes people feel good.

It is often the reason most espoused by volunteers and by those trying to get others to volunteer. Now research is backing that claim with facts.

Volunteering actually releases endorphins into the blood stream. These are the same chemicals that cause the runner's high and that are associated with stress and pain relief as well as lower blood pressure.

Volunteering may actually help people live longer according to a study done at the University of Michigan in 1999.

The health benefits cited by the Ontario Ministry of Health include a strengthening of the immune system and protection from social isolation, which can lead to depression.

But the benefits of volunteering don't just end there. By selecting the right opportunity, volunteers can build their portfolio, increase their skills set and gain work-related references.

They will also build their network and increase their sense of connectedness to the community.

These benefits can extend into the workplace. Employers will find that their employees who volunteer are more satisfied with life in general and that their abilities increase with the practice they gain in their volunteer positions.

Employers will also see benefits with the better health that volunteers tend to experience. Less sick leave taken and lower insurance premiums can all become part of the benefits experienced by employers who allow their employees to volunteer once a week on company time.

Volunteering gives us all a voice to show what we value. Not everyone gets to choose what they do for a living, but every volunteer can choose what organization they volunteer for.

By choosing an organization that matches your values, you will find that you are making your world a better place.

If you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, the American Red Cross of Alaska will be having its volunteer orientation on July 19th at their Southeast District office - 3200 Hospital Dr, Juneau.

They will be exploring the history of the Red Cross and current volunteer opportunities.