The Power of Service

Tyson Ross


March 30, 2024

I remember the rush of joy I felt as I left the old Morristown church that Saturday morning with my mom. It was the first time I had volunteered at our local soup kitchen.

As a seventh grader, getting up early on a Saturday morning wasn’t something I normally would choose to do, but that day, I asked my mother if we could go next weekend, and of course, she said yes. Since then, I’ve volunteered and led missions within my church, school, and community, all the while not knowing the research-based reasons why it felt so good.

Research shows through brain activity and hormones that being of service to others increases people's confidence, decreases stress, creates a sense of purpose, and actually increases physical and mental health. A recent study published in The Journal Of Happiness Studies, which observed close to 70,000 people in the UK, found a direct correlation between volunteering and happiness. Those who volunteered most frequently reported the highest level of happiness while those who didn’t volunteer reported the lowest. The study also showed those who had never volunteered before, who then began to, had the biggest positive increase in their mental health.

According to research, volunteering activates the reward system in our brains releasing the chemical dopamine, making us feel good. The more we get that dopamine release, the happier we are. Serving others lowers the risk of anxiety and depression not only due to this chemical release but also because volunteering gets people to stop thinking of themselves and place their focus on others.  

I believe it! Some of the most rewarding weeks of my life were the two summer trips I took to Appalachia with my church. Our youth ministry built houses for those in need, worked hard as a team, learned new skills while fixing houses for families (that eventually became our friends) and created outcomes like a new roof with no leaks . These all contributed to a profound sense of connection, purpose, increased confidence and, of course, a lot of fun too.

The power of service is real, and the research shows the benefits are great. Many non-profits, churches, schools and local groups would love someone new to join their team. For these reasons, I encourage everyone to get out and give back…for yourself and others!  

Tyson Ross

Tyson Ross is a student at West Morris Mendham High School in Mendham, New Jersey. He is an intern and editor at the nonprofit organization Promly, which is working to combat the ongoing teen mental health crisis. He looks to create change through writing and service.