Someone putting on a volunteer badge

Volunteering and its benefits to mental health

When thinking of ways in which we can try to positively influence our mental health, it’s important to consider a wide variety of options. One great and readily available option is choosing to volunteer within the community.

The aim of volunteering

A great thing about volunteering is being able to choose a placement that best aligns with your personal interests. This ensures that you are in an environment that is comfortable and one which you can easily adapt to, providing a greater chance that this will positively impact your wellbeing. Serving the community can be a rewarding endeavour, and a sense of purpose is important in making you feel less alone and a part of something worthwhile. As well as this, it is also a way to broaden your view of things, interact with a variety of people, and give you time to reflect on yourself. Research has found that volunteering benefits mental health. It might also help you try something you’ve never done before in order to challenge yourself, and therefore keep your mind active and thinking proactively! Overall, the aim is to help the community as well as yourself in a variety of positive ways, and it’s an opportunity to form new connections.

Picking up a plastic bottle from the beach

A distraction

From personal experience as a volunteer, you get the opportunity to focus on something else other than any negative thought patterns which may be affecting you mentally. Most of my volunteer work so far has centred around nature with allotment and community garden work. Nature is greatly beneficial to mental health as it actively helps to reduce the production of stress-inducing hormones. As well as this, the physical side of outdoors work makes you feel accomplished at the end of the day, boosting self-esteem. Feeling connected to nature can ground us, and make us feel a sense of peace. Therefore, choosing to volunteer in that sort of environment can be extremely useful in managing our mental wellbeing, even if you aren’t overly interested in nature.

Meeting new people

A great extension of choosing to volunteer is the range of people you meet, which can help you form a support network. Due to the nature of volunteer work, people from all types of backgrounds seek to take part for all different kinds of reasons. This creates a great chance to form bonds with people who may be able to provide new insights into areas where maybe they have more experience. When you’re perhaps not feeling your best, it is important to have people around you who you can talk to, people who will listen and give advice. If you’re an anxious person for example, putting yourself in a situation where you may need to interact with others could help you to gain confidence and start to feel more at ease generally.

Volunteering is a nice way to not only help the community, but to also ensure your mental health is kept in check. If you think it may help you, consider volunteering through the Student Union.

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