How volunteering can have a positive impact on mental health

How Volunteering Can Have A Positive Impact On Mental Health 2023

January 30, 2023

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Mental health is a growing concern in our society, and it can be hard to find ways to take care of your mental well-being.

Many people struggle with feeling overwhelmed or anxious but don’t know how to cope with these feelings in a healthy way.

Traditional treatments like therapy and medication can be expensive and time-consuming.

Volunteering offers an accessible solution for improving mental health.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom has shown that volunteering can have a positive impact on mental health.

The study showed that people who volunteer regularly are more likely to report feeling happier and less anxious than those who don’t volunteer.

This finding was true across all age groups, genders, and socio-economic backgrounds studied.

So if you’re looking for an activity to help boost your mental well-being, consider donating some of your time to a good cause!

From helping out at a local animal shelter to tutoring students after school, there are countless opportunities available for those looking to give back while taking care of their own well-being.

Volunteering is an excellent way to help others while also improving your own mental health.

It gives you a sense of purpose, helps build relationships with other people, and provides a great opportunity to learn new skills or develop existing ones.

Plus, it’s free!

What Did The Study Find?

hand on desk next to computer keyboard pointing at a graph and chart.

Richards and her team of researchers compiled data from forty papers, including nine experiments and sixteen cohort studies to reach their findings.

The findings suggest that participating in voluntary activities can help to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The researchers also believe this is because volunteering allows individuals to feel a sense of purpose and meaning, and to connect with others in their community.

Why Is This Study Important?

Important surrounded by question marks

Given the current global health crisis, these findings are particularly important as there has been an increase in mental health issues associated with it.

Dr. Suzanne Richards, lead researcher on the study commented:

Our systematic review shows that volunteering is associated with improvements in mental health, but more work is needed to establish whether volunteering is actually the cause.

It is still unclear whether biological and cultural factors and social resources that are often associated with better health and survival are also associated with a willingness to volunteer in the first place.

The challenge now is to encourage people from more diverse backgrounds to take up volunteering, and then to measure whether improvements arise for them.”.

In other words, volunteering could be a valuable tool to help individuals in the current climate, but more research is needed to understand if this is the case.

This study highlights the need for further research into volunteering as an effective way to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Especially among people from diverse backgrounds who may not have access to traditional treatments.

Encouraging Individuals To Volunteer

volunteers in room packing boxes holding up we need you sign

The study also highlights the importance of encouraging people to volunteer, including providing them with resources that will allow them to do so successfully.

Providing support for individuals who want to volunteer is integral if we’re going to achieve greater levels of mental well-being across society, something that is especially critical during pandemic times.

Additional Studies On The Benefits Of Volunteering

volunteering group picking up litter on a beach

In addition to this UK-based research, similar studies have been carried out in other countries too;

One study published by American Psychological Association looked at the impact of volunteering on mortality – the chances of death over an extended period.

It found that volunteers who did it exclusively for others had lower mortality rates than non-volunteers, suggesting that doing good may be beneficial to your health.

Another study published examined how volunteering has health benefits in general adults and went on to say that those who volunteered had lower levels of depression, reported better physical health, and felt more socially integrated.

Many factors suggest that volunteering may have a positive impact on the mental and physical well-being of adults.

In addition to the direct benefits gained by volunteers, volunteering can also have indirect effects on society.

Furthermore, volunteering can also have indirect effects on the communities in which volunteers live.

For instance, research has suggested that volunteering may lead to improved public safety, reduced crime rates, and better resource management.

Overall, volunteering is an important activity with numerous benefits for both individuals and communities. It can help build social networks and improve mental and physical health.

Results showed volunteers scored better on the altruism/helping others subscale than non-volunteers;

Indicating how much more connected volunteers felt with their communities compared with non-volunteers.

Volunteering Is Good For Your Mental & Physical Health

volunteering group in a forest setting, huddled with hands in the air

Volunteer activities can be a great way to improve both mental and overall well-being, as they help reduce stress, anger, and anxiety.

Social contact plays a significant role in keeping one’s mental health healthy, and participating in volunteer opportunities helps one to build meaningful relationships with others.

By volunteering, individuals are able to create various social support networks which protect them from the risk of developing depression.

Therefore, getting involved in volunteer activities and taking advantage of the amazing ways they can facilitate physical and psychological well-being is essential.

Additionally, studies have shown that interacting with animals has great positive effects on mood and can reduce depression symptoms.

Gaining Career Experience & Providing A National & Community Service

volunteering group gardening

Volunteering offers an invaluable opportunity for anyone looking to explore new career paths without any long-term commitment.

Whether it is in a nonprofit setting or in hospitals and nursing homes, volunteering can introduce us to valuable skills in a variety of professions.

Doing so allows us to gain experience, which can carry over into our professional lives and greatly improve future prospects in our chosen field.

By doing our volunteer work to the best of our ability, we may even be given the chance for more permanent positions or internships down the line.

Volunteering Can Advance Your Career

volunteering group in an office setting wearing volunteer t-shirts

Volunteering is a great way to gain essential experience in your field of choice.

It provides the opportunity to try tasks and hone skills, such as;

  • problem-solving
  • communication
  • teamwork
  • project management
  • organization

Which are highly valued by employers and can be developed through activities like leading a team or heading a project.

Additionally, volunteering opportunities help you build contacts in the industry that may ease the transition into full-time employment post-graduation.

If you’re looking for experience related to your field of study or seeking a career change, look into volunteer roles – it could ultimately be a defining factor in making yourself stand out from the competition.

Volunteering Can Increase Your Social & Relationship Skills

volunteering group huddle

Volunteering can be a great way to build confidence in meeting new people and developing social skills.

You likely already share common interests with other volunteers, which is a great start for building relationships.

Finding regular volunteering activities can also help to build momentum in interacting with new people, making it easier as your comfort level grows.

In no time at all, you may find that the timidness you once felt when meeting strangers has gone!

Make New Friends & Contacts From Volunteer Opportunities

volunteering group huddled together

Strengthening a relationship with somebody who is already a friend can be as simple as volunteering together.

Not only does this give both of you the opportunity to bond in an exciting, positive, and meaningful way, but it also expands your social circles by meeting new people with different interests.

Volunteering creates chances for shared experiences that are often memorable and highly enjoyable, offering a way to improve your social well-being.

There’s no better way to achieve connection and learning than to help out in the local community!

Volunteer Overseas

Blue passports stacked on top of a map with small model plane on top.

Volunteering overseas can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

Not only does it provide opportunities to explore different cultures and gain invaluable life experience, but it also allows us to make a positive impact on marginalized communities.

Through volunteer activities such as teaching English, building homes, or providing healthcare support.

We have the potential to make a significant change in people’s lives while also broadening our own perspectives in the process.

Volunteering abroad is a worthwhile endeavor that anyone with a sense of adventure or a desire to give back should consider.

Volunteers Do Make A Difference!

volunteers in room packing boxes holding up we need you sign

The findings from this research are exceptionally positive and encouraging with regard to the impact of volunteering, whether it is for an organization or individuals in need.

It has demonstrated that even a small amount of our time and effort can profoundly benefit both ourselves and others.

This research provides valuable hope and motivation during what is otherwise an extremely challenging period when we all could most certainly use morale input and some good news.

We can take comfort in knowing that by helping out, no matter how much or how little the assistance may be, we can make a notable difference in improving our lives and our communities.

Frequently Asked Questions About Volunteering & Mental Health

What is mental health?

Mental health includes an overall state of well-being that includes not only our emotional, psychological, and social well-being but also the way we think, feel, and behave.

It can be affected by many factors including the way we handle stress and social, economic, and environmental factors.

Mental health problems include anxiety disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and psychotic illnesses.

Taking care of your mental health is key to living a happy, healthy life.

There are many ways to improve mental wellness such as volunteering in your community or engaging in activities or hobbies you enjoy.

Why is mental health important for overall health?

Maintaining good mental health is important for living a healthy and balanced life.

It can help us to better manage stress, make wise decisions, stay productive, gain confidence, take risks, and accept challenges that come our way.

What are some ways to look after our mental health?

Here are some of the ways we can look after our mental health:

  • Developing healthier habits such as proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep.
  • Engaging in activities like meditation or mindfulness promotes relaxation.
  • Practicing self-care such as spending time with friends/family or taking breaks from work/school.
  • Expressing ourselves through art/writing etc., to channel our emotions positively.
  • Setting realistic goals which challenge us without feeling overwhelmed.

Taking care of your mental health requires effort but it’s worth it!

Doing so will result in improved;

  • physical health
  • greater productivity at work or school
  • increased creativity
  • enhanced problem-solving skills
  • improved relationships with others
  • more confidence in oneself

and an overall sense of purpose.

So don’t wait – start looking after your mental well-being today!

Can your mental health change over time?

Yes, mental health can change over time. The changes in mental health can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, hormones, life events, and even genetics.

Mental health can improve or worsen depending on the influences that are present at any given time.

Therefore, it’s important to take steps to maintain good mental health habits so that your overall well-being is supported over the long term.

Why volunteering is very important?

Volunteering is important because it can help you make a positive impact on the lives of others in your community.

It also helps to;

  • Build skills and experience
  • Opens up career opportunities
  • Provides social interaction and friendship
  • Helps to strengthen communities
  • Increases self-confidence and satisfaction

As well as giving people a sense of purpose.

Additionally, it can be great for mental health by providing an escape from daily stressors and worry.

Volunteering is a valuable service that everyone should consider doing!

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