The dictionary definition of “volunteer” is literally to give of oneself: “to offer oneself for some service or undertaking.” When you are giving yourself to something, you may not expect to get anything back in return, but with volunteering, you know you’re getting the most out of it if you come away feeling like a richer person. There is absolutely nothing wrong with benefitting personally from volunteer work; here are some of the ways volunteering can make you into a better person.

Volunteering makes you more connected.

Volunteering can make you a more respected and recognized leader in your community. By getting out and meeting new people, connecting with others from all walks of life, you are giving yourself a broader understanding of your community. One may live in a place for several years and never truly know it, but by volunteering your services within your local community, you are given the opportunity to make an impact and learn about social justice issues.

Volunteering helps you develop more skills.

By developing skills in a particular area of interest, volunteering can even help advance your career. Skills-based (or pro bono) volunteering allows you to help yourself while helping others, because you are gaining relevant work experience and networking with people in your field, just without the pay. This is why so many companies invest in corporate philanthropy initiatives.

Volunteering is good for your mind and body.

Many volunteer programs are physically and mentally demanding. Studies have found that those who volunteer experience both improved mental and improved physical health. Those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, as well as lower rates of depression later in life. Volunteering has even been proven to lessen chronic pain and reduce one’s risk of heart disease. Additionally, volunteering has therapeutic benefits; it can combat stress, aggression, and anxiety and make you feel like a better person overall.

Volunteering is good for your heart and soul.

Lastly, a major benefit of volunteering is that it feels good, not just mentally and physically, but on a deeper level. Love, as an emotion, can be difficult to measure; however, researchers from the London School of Economics found a positive correlation between volunteering and happiness; the more people volunteer, the more room they have for empathy and love.