How Volunteering Helps With Your Mental Health

How Volunteering Helps With Your Mental Health
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In these pandemic times, conversations about hardship are commonplace. We’ve all been through a rough time in some way or another. While that’s something I’m sure we all would have liked to avoid, one benefit is that conversations about mental health, and taking the time to care for it, are far more mainstream now.

We’ve spoken about the multitude of ways you can prioritise self-care on the website a number of times. From using LEGO for mindfulness to trying out sleep yoga, if there’s a conversation happening about looking after your body and mind, we’re interested.

Today, however, I want to talk about something far simpler. That’s volunteering.

Now, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this but volunteering is an incredibly powerful tool in boosting your headspace. Add that to the impact that contributing to your community has and you’ve got yourself a pretty positive pastime.

I chatted with Josh Rosenthal, psychotherapist and founder of Cove Counselling, who recently teamed up with the Salvos Stores, to learn more about what you can get out of giving.

Community service can be life-changing

Acts of service are a valuable way of giving back to the community you’re a part of. And while this should of course be something you participate in because of a genuine desire to help, there is a lot to be gained personally, too.

“It is a really powerful way to benefit both the volunteer and those they are helping,” Rosenthal shared.

Being actively involved in pushing your community forward is a powerful thing in and of itself, he stressed, but in addition to that, “It is also a way to provide mental stimulation and ease stress, which is really supporting for wellbeing.”

Research supports this claim

According to a study that was published in the 2020 Journal of Happiness Studies, folks who had volunteered over the course of the study period (1996 to 2014) reported a more positive sense of wellbeing than those who did not.

The results, as The University of Berkeley highlights, improved with more regular volunteering. The university reports that volunteering was linked to higher life satisfaction, an increased sense of social connection and improved professional skills.

Rosenthal added that it also has an impact on self-esteem levels in patients.

“Volunteering, and being of service to others, can give you a sense of meaning and purpose which is essential for mental health. People can heal by being a part of an altruistic community,” he shared.

“Developing relationships with others who want to be of service allows a person to gain a sense of belonging.”

How do I get started?

The first step, Rosenthal said, is finding an organisation that lines up with your values and will put your skills to good use.

“At Salvos Stores, you can jump on their website, register your details and skillset and they’ll find a volunteer role that is best suited to you,” he said.

“Everyone has value, and everyone can support in any way they can – and that help will be a great way to give back to you, and your community.

But the main thing, he shared, is that only a few hours of your time can make a significant difference.

So, give it a go. You’ll be surprised at the results.

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