The Dopamine Effect of Volunteering: Why Giving Back Feels So Good

Hello everyone, 

Volunteering is often seen as a selfless act, a way to give back to the community and make a positive impact on the lives of others. However, what many people don’t realise is that volunteering can also have significant benefits for the volunteer themselves. These benefits are not just emotional or psychological; they are rooted in the brain’s chemistry, particularly the release of dopamine. As we approach Nelson Mandela Day in July, a time dedicated to honouring the legacy of Nelson Mandela through acts of service, it’s worth exploring how giving back can make us feel so good and how personal passion-driven volunteer work can embody this spirit of volunteerism. 

The Dopamine Effect 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in the brain that plays a key role in how we feel pleasure. It’s part of the brain’s reward system, and it’s released during activities that are perceived as enjoyable or rewarding. Research has shown that volunteering can stimulate the release of dopamine, leading to what is often described as a “helper’s high.” 

When you volunteer, your brain releases dopamine in response to the social connection and the sense of accomplishment you experience. This release of dopamine makes you feel happier and more satisfied, creating a positive feedback loop that encourages more giving. This is one reason why people who volunteer regularly often report feeling happier and more fulfilled. 

Nelson Mandela Day: A Call to Action 

Nelson Mandela Day, celebrated on 18 July, is an annual event that encourages people to take action and inspire change. Mandela dedicated his life to fighting for social justice and equality, and this day serves as a reminder of his legacy. Volunteering on this day, and throughout the year, can be a powerful way to honour his memory and continue his work. 

 Giving Back with Passion 

I find great joy in volunteering in areas where I have a deep passion. For instance, I volunteer at SADRA (The South African Dispute Resolution Association), a conflict resolution and mediation NGO. This work aligns with my interest in fostering peace and understanding in our communities. Additionally, I volunteer at my child’s school, contributing to a positive learning environment and supporting the next generation. 

 5 Ways to Volunteer When You’re Stretched for Time and Money 

Many people, want to volunteer but feel they don’t have the time or financial resources to do so. Here are five ways you can still make a meaningful impact, even when you’re stretched for time and money: 

  1. Community-Based Childcare: Offer to look after children in your community for a few hours. This can help parents who need to work or attend to other responsibilities. It’s a valuable service that requires only your time and care.
  2. Help Out at Local Schools: Offer your time to help at your child’s school or a local school. This could include assisting with reading programmes, helping organise events, or providing general support where needed. Schools often rely on volunteer support to enhance the educational experience for children.
  3. Elderly Assistance: Help out an elderly neighbour with tasks such as grocery shopping, cleaning, or simply providing company. These small acts of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s life.
  4. Faith-Based Initiatives: Get involved with your local church or other faith-based organisations. Many of these groups run outreach programmes such as soup kitchens, clothing drives, and after-school programmes that are always in need of volunteers.
  5. Support Local Initiatives: Engage with local council initiatives, such as community safety programmes, health awareness campaigns, or educational workshops. These initiatives often need volunteers to help run events and provide support, making them a great way to get involved in your community.


Volunteering is not just about giving; it’s also about receiving. The dopamine effect of volunteering can boost your mood, reduce stress, and create a sense of connection and purpose. As we celebrate Nelson Mandela Day this July, consider how you can give back, even in small ways. By volunteering in areas you are passionate about, like I do with SADRA and my child’s school, you not only help those in need but also experience the incredible benefits that come from volunteering. Whether you have lots of time and resources or just a little, every act of kindness counts and contributes to a better world for all. 

By engaging in these simple yet impactful volunteer activities, you can experience the joy and fulfilment that comes from helping others while honouring the spirit of Nelson Mandela. Whether you are a busy mother, a working professional, or someone just looking to make a difference, there is always a way to give back and feel the profound benefits of volunteering. 

Zimbini Hill.

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36 thoughts on “The Dopamine Effect of Volunteering: Why Giving Back Feels So Good

  1. Sithembile M. says:

    Imm very honored to have a women with integrity and not afraid to just hi in there you go girl and celebrate yourself and ad value to the rainbow nation which doesn’t choose colour

  2. Natasha S. says:

    We should all absolutely exercise our right to vote 🇿🇦 This is a very encouraging article for everyone to be active citizens and let our voices be heard every contribution helps 🙏 Congratulations Anne Khanzi enjoy your voucher ❤️😊 Blessed Mothers Day to all the Super Woman out there who care for their families unconditionally trust it will be Beautiful in every way possible 👨‍👩‍👧‍👧💙🩵🩷💜