Want a happier, healthier life? Try volunteering

Dylan Sudiacal says if everyone spread a little bit of happiness to those around them through volunteering “everyone would be happy.”

“The main reason I volunteer is that I genuinely enjoy helping people out,” says Sudiacal, first-year biopharmaceutical sciences student at the University of Ottawa. “It gives me a sense of fulfillment and joy that nothing else can give.”

In fact, 44 per cent of Canadians aged 15 or older volunteer each year. Everybody has their own reasoning behind why they do it, but the benefits that come from volunteering are mutually beneficial to all.

Winterlude, along with other events in Ottawa, for instance, wouldn’t be the same without the people who dedicate endless amounts of their time to volunteer.

According to Volunteer Ottawa, almost all of Ottawa’s non-profit and charitable organizations rely solely on volunteers to meet their goals.

“With limited financial resources, not-for-profits would not be able to fulfill their mandates without the help of volunteers,” says Marie Eveline, executive director of Volunteer Ottawa. “In turn, volunteers are able to make a difference in the lives of individuals as well as contribute to society.”

It doesn’t matter how big or small the organization, there are always people ready and willing to offer a hand.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than helping someone who can never pay you back,” says Sudiacal.

The volunteering opportunities in Ottawa are endless. There are volunteers who brave the cold and help prepare the outdoor rinks for people to enjoy in the winter. And some who help with all year round initiatives like volunteering to run The Ottawa Jail Accountability and Information Line (JAIL). They take calls from inmates and listen to any concerns they might have.

Certain students need volunteering hours to be able to graduate. But, some see it less as a mandatory job and more of a fun opportunity to feel joy and fulfillment.

Tashera Joseph-Mofford is a second-year global and international studies and global law and social justice student at Carleton University. She needed 40 volunteer hours to be able to graduate, but when she started volunteering she ended up enjoying it.

“Others, especially young adults, should volunteer because there is something about working for free in an establishment that you care about that is more rewarding than getting paid,” says Joseph-Mofford.

Volunteering can also have major health benefits.

According to research conducted by the Corporation for National & Community Service, some of the health benefits from volunteering can include lower mortality rates, greater functional abilities and lower rates of depression later on in life.

Along with the health benefits, volunteering helps increase your self-confidence. You will feel good about yourself for giving back and gain a sense of purpose, which can lead to a happier and healthier life.

“Depending on where you volunteer, you get to interact with people from every single race, religion, social economic class, sex and etc,” says Sudiacal. “Being able to converse and exchange ideas with a wide range of people helps you build a sense of empathy and understanding, two qualities that are very important for living a happy life.”

If you are looking to start volunteering, Volunteer Ottawa offers workshops and training sessions. They support over 300 local non-profit organizations and help place over 2000 volunteers each year in Ottawa.

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