Volunteering, happiness and success at work

Happier and healthier at work, thanks to a workplace volunteering program? You bet. Volunteer activities are good for everyone--you, your company, and the community. That’s what emerging research is beginning to suggest, including a study by the Corporation for National and Community Service which outlines the heart-healthy benefits of rolling up your sleeves alongside your colleagues to help out in the community.

Research shows that doing good does feel good, scientifically speaking. According to studies at the University of California, people categorized as “grateful” reported feeling 25 percent more happiness and energy—and 20 percent less envy and resentment—than ungrateful people. The data tells us that "prosocial spending"--spending money to benefit others--shows positive signs of increasing happiness. Researchers at the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and Harvard Business School recently found evidence that "how people spend their money" plays a role in happiness; specifically, those who "spend money on others report more happiness." It's true of adults around the world, and both physical and mental benefits are observed. The "warm glow of giving" can even be seen in toddlers.

And it’s not just giving money to charity that makes you feel good. In a study conducted at Carnegie Mellon study, 200 hours of volunteering per year correlated to lower blood pressure. Other studies have found a health benefit from as little as 100 hours of volunteering a year.

What kind of giving boosts happiness the most? That, according to researchers, would be the categories of "doing good" that are most closely related to satisfying the basic human needs of "relatedness, competence, and autonomy." Donating to a charity of your choice, helping a neighbor, learning a few new recycling protocols, participating in a community event, purchasing a product that helps support a cause that has touched your family, serving on a committee to share your talent. It's all good, and good for you, too.