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If you want to be happier, volunteering may be just what you need. Volunteering offers more than an opportunity to give back and contribute to your community—it can give you a new sense of purpose and improve your overall well-being.

An Infusion of Happiness

Engaging in acts of kindness through volunteering triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to pleasure and reward. A study in The Journal of Happiness Studies found that volunteers had higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. It’s also been reported that regular volunteering is associated with lower cortisol levels, a stress-related hormone, in older adults. This physiological response suggests that volunteering not only makes us feel good in the moment but also contributes to long-term stress reduction.

A Sense of Purpose and Self-Esteem

Contributing time and skills to causes that matter to you has been shown to increase feelings of purpose and self-esteem. A recent study found that 96% of volunteers reported that volunteering enhanced their sense of purpose. Ninety-four percent said that it helped improve their mood and sense of well-being. Volunteering allows individuals to use their strengths and talents in meaningful ways, fostering a sense of accomplishment and personal growth.

Making Connections

One of the biggest barriers to happiness is social isolation and loneliness, which Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has called an “epidemic.” Making friends can be difficult, especially for older adults. AARP is committed to fostering connections and cultivating relationships to promote health and happiness. AARP offers tips and resources to help you get started in making those essential connections, including volunteering. Volunteering brings people together, providing opportunities to connect with others who share similar interests and passions. These social connections can lead to lasting friendships and a supportive community network.

Mental and Physical Health Benefits

Beyond the immediate boost to happiness, volunteering has been linked to various mental and physical health benefits. Volunteering with and for others increases social interaction and helps build a support system based on common commitment and interests—both of which have been shown to decrease depression. Additionally, the physical activity involved in many volunteer roles can improve cardiovascular health, mobility, and overall physical fitness. 

Volunteering offers a pathway to greater happiness, a sense of purpose, and enhanced well-being. By giving your time and energy to causes you care about, you not only improve the lives of others but also enrich your own life in meaningful ways. For those looking for opportunities to get involved, AARP offers a variety of volunteer programs tailored to different interests, passions, and skills. Visit to find an opportunity that suits you.