We all know that Volunteering does good. It supports worthy causes, directly helps others and makes a difference. If you put your hand up for something it will be an act of altruism that makes lives easier and the planet a nicer place to be. Its protective, compassionate, involved and supportive. But did you know that volunteering actually does you good too? That's mental and physical health. Numerous studies have proven that volunteering makes a real positive impact on overall wellbeing. Here are 7 ways I discovered in my 3 years volunteering.
- Perspective. Volunteering takes you out of your relatively tiny life and makes you part of something much bigger. When we worry and stress about our lives it narrows our perspective. We can develop tunnel vision. Overly concerned with our own preoccupations. Experiencing the world outside that narrow field of vision can really slow down the relentless internal chatter and decrease stress. Smaller concerns become irrelevant. You expand your vision of the world and let go of the anxiety inducing things that bothered you before.
- Seeing the amazing qualities of people. If you volunteer you inevitably witness some amazing human qualities. Whether it's with the people that you support, fellow volunteers or the people running the show. This can act as an antidote to modern times when we are bombarded with negative aspects of humanity. Resilience, love, strength, compassion, positivity in tough times, a few that I've witnessed in abundance. This has a really positive impact on your mood. It contributes to a new level of optimism, inspiration, motivation and overall positive psychology.
- Create meaning and purpose. When I work with individual clients in a coaching session, meaning and purpose are one of the cornerstones of wellness. Volunteering gives you both. Numerous studies have shown that high levels of meaning and purpose in your life benefits physical and mental health, it positively impacts your choices and can even help you live longer according to Patricia Boyle, professor of behavioural sciences at Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago.
- Meet amazing people. Connection is an important element to feeling well. The NHS tells us that when it comes to wellbeing other people matter. Evidence shows that good relationships with family, friends and our wider communities are important for our mental wellbeing. Volunteering develops relationships, gives you the opportunity to meet new people and connects you to community. I have developed meaningful relationships with people that I would have ordinarily never met in my day to day life. My life is definitely richer for that.
- Gratitude. You invariably leave volunteering feeling grateful. Grateful for what you have, who you are, what others have given and the opportunity to make a difference. It can really make you count your blessings. Appreciate life on a whole new level. At the very least return home and hug your loved ones just a little bit tighter. So many good studies have found the same results with an attitude of gratitude. Feeling grateful makes you happier, healthier, lifts self-esteem, improves relationships and even helps you sleep better!
- It feels good to do good. Yes it does. Researchers at the London school of economics examined the relationship between volunteering and various measures of happiness. They concluded that the more people gave through volunteering the happier they were. People that volunteered monthly were 7% higher than non-volunteers and this rose to 7% for monthly and 16% for weekly volunteering.
- Learning. Volunteering can bring you opportunities to learn. Learning new things keeps the brain healthy and keeps it sharper in later life. I have learned new coaching skills, how to present a workshop, assembly and even how to knit!