Volunteering has been my saving grace during major transitions in my life. When I moved to a new state and didn’t know anyone but my husband, I volunteered at a nature center. When I was distraught by the direction of the country, I got involved with several environmental organizations. When my children switched schools, I joined the PTA community service committee. By volunteering, I was able to channel my energy in a positive way to make a difference in my community, and in the process, I broadened my friendship circle in ways that I would have never imagined. Each time I got involved with a new organization, I was amazed by how many incredible people I got to know that I would not have met if I hadn’t signed up to volunteer.
The Shrinking Circle
Whether you recently moved or your children have moved on, you may be feeling a bit lonely and looking for ways to meet new friends. Many people feel this way. In fact, research shows that friend groups shrink after age 25 and the older you get, the fewer friends you probably have. According to Pew Research Center, most Americans only have one or two friends close enough to consider confidants.
Good for the Heart in More Ways Than One
As it turns out, having friends isn’t just about being popular. They play a major role in our health and happiness. Studies show that spending time with friends is one of the best things we can do for our health. For example, a recent study found that the strength of a person’s social circle was a better predictor of self-reported stress, happiness, and well-being levels than physical activity, heart rate, or sleep patterns.
It’s important that we step out of our comfort zone to try and meet people that we enjoy spending time with. One easy way to build new, meaningful relationships is by volunteering. According to Help Guide, volunteering is a great way to meet new people since it “strengthens your ties to the community and broadens your support network, exposing you to people with common interests, neighborhood resources, and fun and fulfilling activities”.
Here are 10 reasons why volunteering is such an effective way to broaden your social circle:
- You can meet like-minded people who share similar interests, values, and goals.
- By following your interests and passions, you are in your element and more open to connecting with others.
- Working with others to make your community a better place is a rewarding experience that easily connects you to them.
- It gives you the opportunity to bond with others as you learn new skills together.
- Working on a project together helps you to really get to know others.
- It gives you a natural way to start conversations about the organization and projects you are working on.
- Some organizations require a training session before you can volunteer. This helps you connect with others going through the same experience you are.
- You may end up spending a great deal of time with staff and other volunteers at events and even traveling together, which allows you to really get to know them well.
- Volunteer work can be quite inspiring, so you may meet people who motivate you in various ways and serve as mentors both personally and professionally.
Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. You can find her at www.happysciencemom.com. Get her free course on raising happy, balanced kids at bit.ly/2i53TDV.