The holidays are coming up and there will be even more opportunities to volunteer. We all know that volunteering is a way to help others and pay it forward; however it’s a way to help yourself too. Think about it….

Volunteering is a low fear-inducing way to reduce social anxiety and depression.

Volunteering increases self-confidence. Volunteering can provide a healthy boost to your self-confidence, self-esteem, and overall life satisfaction. You are doing something good for others, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
Volunteering combats depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation.Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with other people and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. You’re essentially expanding your resiliency bucket! Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety...serotonin levels increase.
Volunteering can enhance your ability to read/deliver non-verbal communication:

Practice observing people in public places, such as a shopping mall, bus, train, restaurant, or even on a television talk show with the sound muted. Observing how others use body language can teach you how to better receive and use nonverbal signals when conversing with others. Notice how people act and react to each other. Try to guess what their relationship is, what they’re talking about, and how each feels about what is being said. Counselors do this all the time!
Use body language to convey positive feelings even when you're not actually experiencing them. If you’re nervous about a situation—a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example—you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you’re not feeling it. Instead of apprehensively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and slumping into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact with people. Deliver a firm handshake with those that you meet. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put others at ease. They may be just as uncomfortable as you are. Human touch is a magical thing.
Volunteering can enhance your professional and social circles:

Volunteering is an easy way to network professionally. You are meeting others from many different professions. If you are just starting out in your career, or just developing your business, networking is invaluable. You will meet people who have been where you are, and those who are going where you’re going. Having regular contact with professional peers can be a source of encouragement, especially when you’re feeling burned out too.
Volunteering can enhance your social life. When you go to volunteer sites, you’re meeting like-minded people. You’re meeting others who have values such as compassion and connection to community. Also, people who volunteer appear to be confident, happy, and out-going. Again, these are people from many different walks of life, so there is the potential for interesting dialogue. Something else, people who you are meeting are out...they’re active. Finally, volunteering is a “clean: social opportunity...there is usually no alcohol involved, so you are interacting with people and seeing who they really are.

Author's Bio: 

Erin was an adult probation officer in the 81st and 218th Judicial District before becoming a licensed counselor. During her graduate internship, she used her case management experiences in the probation department to enhance her ability to provide assessment, supervision, education, and other services in the areas of substance abuse, social services, anger management, and behavior modification.

Now her specialties are working with civilian couples and active duty military members/spouses. She is an Employee Assistance Program provider who assists with public speaking/presentations for job sites. She also does Critical Incident Stress Debriefings across the San Antonio area, and personal development and supervisor training for businesses, all of which are under the Employee Assistance Program umbrella.

Although Erin has studied the "traditional" counseling techniques and theories, she believes in healing the mind, body, and spirit. She enjoys many non-traditional forms of healing, like meditation, yoga, reflexology, Reiki,and massage therapy. She has integrated and encouraged some of the non-traditional methods into her practice because she has found them to be safe, gentle, non-invasive forms healing that are beneficial for stress management.