YANO board members present a workshop at a high school student conference.You know all the reasons why you should volunteer more often—it benefits others, just plain feels good, and helps you bank good karma—but if those aren’t giving you the motivation you need, try these: Volunteering just one day a month will give your life a greater sense of purpose and will make you feel more connected to your community, finds new research from Duke University and the National University of Singapore.

Researchers looked at survey data collected from more than 3,200 middle-aged Americans who were asked questions related to the frequency of their volunteer work and their mental and physical health.

Turns out there’s a significant correlation between social well-being and volunteer work. Those who volunteered also experienced a lasting boost in “eudemonic” well-being, or feelings that your life has purpose, the study finds. Why? Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself, and helps you form new relationships with the people in your neighborhood, explains study author Joonmo Son, PhD, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore.

Think you’re too busy? It’s not about how much time you give, Son says, it’s about forming an identity as a volunteer. That means you have to give back regularly enough to consider the activity part of who you are, Son says. In his team’s study, that required just 3 to 4 hours of volunteering each month, but it could take even less for you.


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