Volunteering: Is once enough to increase your happiness?

This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Volunteering
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Does volunteering make you happy?

Our everyday experience says it does, and a host of scientific studies concur: volunteering one’s time, energy, and resources increases your sense of well-being and happiness.

But is volunteering once enough? Two or three times? Or, do you have to do it on a regular basis?

An answer can be found in an article that appeared last year in the Journal of Economic Psychology. In it, European economists Martin Binder and Andreas Freytag dug into an enormous amount of data from the British Household Panel Survey. This survey has tracked thousands of adults since 1991.

The economists define volunteering as “any activity in which time is given freely to benefit another person, group, or organization.” What they found is revealing: Volunteering once is not enough. Rather, “regular sustained volunteering increases subjective well-being.”

Even more: Frequent volunteering is not subject to “hedonic adaptation.” This cumbersome phrase means that each person has a certain happiness level to which he or she returns after events that increase or decrease happiness. This doesn’t appear to be the case for volunteering. “On the contrary” write the researchers, “the sustained and frequent volunteering effort seems to be subject to increasing returns in terms of happiness.”

In other words, the more you volunteer and make it a part of your life, the happier you will be over time.

Does volunteering make you happier?

Are you surprised to learn that frequent and sustain volunteering is the secret to well-being and happiness?

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