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The Fun Way to Add Years to Your Life

There are a few easy, natural ways to add years to your life. Most are simple lifestyle changes – such as walking a couple of miles a few times each week. They take a little effort, but they’re worth it.

But there’s one thing that can do more than add years to your life… it’s just plain fun. In fact, if you do it right, it’s really like pampering yourself.

I’m talking about volunteering.

Now, if you think of volunteering as some unpleasant task you do for “brownie points,” I have news for you. No matter what you enjoy, there’s an opportunity that will make volunteering feel like play.

But before we cover the fun aspect, let’s look at some of the benefits of volunteering.

Live Longer, Live Better

Michigan’s Institute for Social Research looked at caregivers versus people who were cared for. You know what they found? People who cared for someone else had “significantly reduced” mortality. Being cared for offered no benefit beyond the care itself.1

When the Institute looked specifically at volunteering, they found similar results. Older adults who volunteered as little as 40 hours a year had a much lower risk of mortality.2

A study in the Journal of Health Psychology is even more specific. California researchers found that volunteering lowered their subjects’ risk of mortality by 44% .3 I don’t know about you, but I really like those odds.

Of course, while living longer is nice, enjoying those extra years is even better. And once again, volunteering comes through.

According to a study in the International Journal of Aging and Human Development, volunteering boosts both physical and mental health. Among the mental and emotional benefits reported were a higher degree of satisfaction with life and lower levels of anxiety and moodiness.4

Volunteering also helps protect against the negative impact of losing a partner or job. A University of Wisconsin team found these benefits, as well as protection from “empty nest” issues.5

Duke University discovered that volunteering does a lot more than reduce mortality. They found volunteers enjoy greater self-esteem, feel healthier, function better in life, and achieve more than non-volunteers.6

With all these benefits, volunteering would seem like a no-brainer. Except for that “unpleasant task” thing. Well, let’s put that myth to bed right now.

Building Better Health by Having Fun

Do you love the outdoors? Well, did you know that the National Park Service uses volunteer interpreters? Perhaps you miss the kids since they’ve gone off to college. You could become a Big Brother or Big Sister. Or maybe you love being around animals. Chances are there’s a shelter, wildlife rescue or zoo nearby that needs your help.

And these are just three examples of how volunteering can be fun. I know of teens who earn community service credits for school by scaring people at an annual charity haunted house. How’s that for fun?

Here are just a few other ideas:

  • Do you love books? Your local library probably needs help.
  • Are you a retired manager or entrepreneur? Try SCORE (the Service Corps of Retired Executives).
  • Sports nut? There’s probably a soccer or softball league in your area that would be glad to have you.
  • If fine art is your passion, become a museum volunteer.
  • Love the theater? Volunteer to usher or work backstage at a community theater.

The truth is, volunteering is only hard if you choose to do something you don’t like. Even with the extra years volunteering can give you, life is too short not to enjoy. So choose a volunteer opportunity that matches your passions.

Here are three good places to start your search for the perfect volunteer opportunity:

And as always…

Stay Healthy!

Shawn Ambrosino
Best Life Herbals


1 Brown SL, et al. Providing social support may be more beneficial than receiving it: results from a prospective study of mortality. Psychol Sci. 2003 Jul;14(4):320-7.
2 Musick MA, et al. Volunteering and mortality among older adults: findings from a national sample. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 1999 May;54(3):S173-80.
3 Oman D and Thoresen C. Volunteerism and Mortality among the Community-dwelling Elderly
Journal of Health Psychology, Vol. 4, No. 3, 301-316 (1999).
4 Hunter KI and Linn MW. Psychosocial differences between elderly volunteers and non-volunteers. Int J Aging Hum Dev. 1980-1981;12(3):205-13.
5 Greenfield EA and Marks NF. Formal volunteering as a protective factor for older adults’ psychological well-being. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2004 Sep;59(5):S258-64.
6 John Wilson. Volunteering. Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 26: 215-240 (Volume publication date August 2000)

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