Ever since the late 1980s, people have been swarming the self-improvement section in bookstores. Today, they’re checking the bestseller lists on Amazon for the latest and greatest strategies from people like Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra, and Eckhart Tolle.

While many self-help authors provide tremendous insight into becoming more productive, happier, and healthier, there’s one self-development tool many leave out: volunteering. If you’re devoted to self-improvement, volunteering is an essential part of enriching your journey.

Volunteering is a brilliant self-improvement strategy

Volunteering is often seen as “working for free,” but it’s far more meaningful than that. Volunteering isn't merely working; it’s a contribution of your time, energy, resources, and wisdom to a worthwhile cause.

While you could volunteer to perform menial, unrewarding tasks – like you would with an internship – not all volunteer opportunities are mundane. The most rewarding volunteer work is work that benefits people beyond the company you volunteer for. For example, Rush University in Chicago is a nationally recognized academic health system. The university uses education, research, and community partnerships to improve health across the nation. Rush has more than 600 volunteers consisting of students, professionals, and retirees all working to make a difference in the community.

All of those 600 people are volunteering their time and effort to help Rush, but it’s actually the entire Chicago community that reaps the rewards.

Volunteering helps you develop strong relationships

A big part of self-improvement is developing meaningful relationships with others. By volunteering, you’re putting yourself in a position to connect with people in your community and build relationships. In many cases, you’ll have the opportunity to meet the people you’re helping. For instance, if you volunteer in a soup kitchen or to distribute clothes and toys to homeless shelters, you’ll get to directly interact with the people you’re helping. You’ll also meet other volunteers who share your passion for helping others.

Another benefit to volunteering is the opportunity to strengthen your social skills and make new friends.

Volunteering increases your value to the world

If you’re an entrepreneur dedicated to self-improvement, you probably want to increase your value to the world in order to grow your business. The value you provide to others directly correlates with the amount of money they’ll pay you for your services. For example, when you can save a marriage in 8 minutes like Tony Robbins, people will pay top dollar for your seminars. The catch is, you have to develop the skills first.

Volunteering is an opportunity to practice philosophy

Along the journey of self-improvement, you’ll collect an abundance of philosophy. Ideas like being egoless and selfless will often be in your awareness. Phrases like, “it’s better to give than to receive” might be floating around in your mind. Volunteering is an opportunity to put those philosophies into practice.

As a self-improvement strategy, volunteering trains you to put your focused attention on the needs and wellbeing of others. It puts you in a position where you have to practice what you’ve learned about teamwork in self-improvement courses, lectures and books. You have to do what’s best for the group, even if it goes against your individual preferences. It’s an opportunity to develop a selfless awareness devoid of a personal interest in outcome.

Happiness is the result of self-improvement

If you’re feeling depressed, stressed, angry, or anxious, volunteering can help alleviate those unwanted feelings. By creating meaningful connections with other people, you won’t have time to think about yourself. When you aren’t dwelling on your own problems, you’ll naturally feel better.

Devoting your time and energy to others gives you a sense of belonging, a purpose in life and increases your sense of community. Volunteering will make you happy, and when you feel happy, you’ll be emotionally available to others. You’ll have the time and energy to care about their needs, and you’ll become the person everyone wants to be around.

Start volunteering today

It doesn’t matter what you volunteer to do; it only matters that you do it. Everything you do counts, and every minute you spend volunteering makes a difference. If you want to make a bigger impact than volunteering at a local animal shelter or soup kitchen, contact your local medical university to see if they have a volunteer program like Rush. There’s no greater leverage than volunteering in a way that helps thousands of people you’ll never meet.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Jessica and I am an independent journalist, freelance blogger, and technology junkie with a passion for music, arts, and the outdoors. One of my greatest passions and joy is assisting communities and business owners. My utmost desire is to help people and business owners to succeed and prosper in their personal and business affairs. I share, comment, write and edit popular news stories.