Volunteering offers a host of positive returns. Not only does it benefit the individuals or groups being served; it also encourages active community engagement and improves volunteers’ psychological wellbeing.
But volunteering together with your spouse or partner can also strengthen and protect your relationship in a multitude of ways, and if you’re single, it’s a great way to meet new, like-minded people and grow your social network.
Dedicating your time and energy towards important causes is an excellent way to celebrate Total Defence Day this month. Psychological Defence, one of the six Pillars of Total Defence, means overcoming challenges and crises together; and Social Defence means looking out for our fellow Singaporeans, regardless of their race or religion.
Couples that do good together enjoy a better relationship
When you perform good deeds you feel good, and when you and your partner carry out good deeds together, there’s a high chance that you’ll enjoy a strong and healthy relationship, too.
“Volunteering and doing charity work are excellent ways for couples to spend time together, bond, and have the same experiences together,” says Ho Shee Wai, a registered psychologist and director at The Counselling Place.
“On a deeper and more important level, these shared activities reflect the fact that both partners embody the same, or similar, values, visions and goals. This is essential for the success and longevity of the relationship. Enjoying the same activities is also a great sign that you’re compatible, and compatibility is a wonderful thing to have if you want your relationship to thrive.”
Volunteering and doing charity work together can also help liven up a stagnant relationship and make it more interesting, Shee Wai continues. When you do something new or different with your partner, your relationship may feel more exciting and fun.
Plus, when you see your partner or spouse doing good you’re more likely to feel more positive towards them. Many studies have actually found kindness, compassion and empathy to be among the traits that people find most attractive in others. Volunteering your time, money and energy towards meaningful causes is not without challenges, of course; these can test your relationship or bring you closer together.
Single? Helping others is good for your mental health and social network
Even if you’re not partnered up, volunteering and doing charity work can improve your mental wellbeing and expand your social circle, says Shee Wai.
“Research shows that doing good helps your mental health. In an experiment where people were given $5 or $10 to spend on themselves or others or donate to charity, it was found that people felt happier when they spent the money on others or donated it to charity, regardless of the amount. They were least happy when they spent the money on themselves. These results have been replicated in other volunteering experiences.”
Doing volunteer and charity work also produces what experts call “helper’s high” – positive emotions or euphoria following selfless service to others. In addition to this “high”, Shee Wai says that engaging in charitable activity can also bring you out of your shell if you’re introverted, nudge you out of your comfort zone, and allow you to focus on bettering the lives of others. In turn, this can boost your self-esteem and self-confidence and broaden your sense of purpose and meaning.
When you perform good deeds alongside friends or with other members of a charitable organisation, you can’t help but foster emotional connections with one another. You also improve your social and communication skills and get to develop new friendships. And, knowing that your work is appreciated has a mood-enhancing and stress-alleviating effect as well.
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