How Volunteering Has Improved My Mental Health

October 1st, 2021

By Kara Reynolds

Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Mental health is something that many people deal with at some point in their lives. Multiple treatment options can help your mental health, like medication and therapy. However, what if there was another way to improve your mental health?

Volunteering is one of the best ways to boost your mental health. It allows you to serve your community, and you get back just as much as you put in. About 20% of adults have experienced a mental health issue in their lifetime, meaning you’re not alone if you struggle with your mental health.

Decreases Feelings and Risk of Depression

Volunteering actually decreases your chances of depression. When you volunteer, you’re around so many other people that have similar values and interests as you. After building relationships with other volunteers, you begin to gather a support network, which decreases depression because you’re less likely to be alone.

Additionally, volunteering helps keep your mind distracted from any destructive behaviors or thoughts. When you volunteer, you can get away from negative thinking and being overly critical of yourself because your focus is on a different matter.

Gives a Sense of Purpose

Whether you’re a younger adult or an older adult, you still look for meaning and purpose in your life. Volunteering can offer that to you. It gives a fulfillment in new ways separate from family life or what you have done for work.

There are so many volunteering opportunities. You can work with older adults to better their lives, help victims of natural disasters, offer your support to the local animal shelter, or travel worldwide to help build a school for an impoverished community. These tasks are humbling, and they can put things into perspective for you and help you grow your compassion and mindset for helping others.

Reduces Stress Levels

How often do you feel stressed out? Stressors affect people daily. While there are many ways to relieve stress, like taking a hot bubble bath or relaxing on the couch, volunteering may be more effective and beneficial for you.

When you work with other volunteers on a project, you can take your mind off your worries. You’re fully immersed in the experience of volunteering because your attention is on something or someone else. Volunteering offers a rich experience, and the more often you participate in volunteer opportunities, the more stress you can relieve, and your stress levels will reduce overall!

Provides New Relationships to Combat Loneliness

Volunteering automatically comes with new friendships. Growing your social circle helps you combat loneliness, which is a leading cause of mental health issues. When you’re left in isolation or feel alone, negative thoughts may pour into your brain, leaving you feeling depressed or anxious.

Choosing an activity that you enjoy, like volunteering, gives you a higher chance of meeting others with similar interests. These friendships can last a lifetime, even if the volunteering project has ended. Plus, volunteering helps break the ice, which helps those who may be more shy or introverted.

Increases Confidence

Different volunteering activities may involve learning new skills. You might have to help build a fence, teach children some language skills, plant a garden or care for animals. Depending on the task, you might have to learn how to do something. When you combine gaining a new skill with being in a new environment, it boosts your confidence.

This provides a sense of accomplishment and mental stimulation that leads to an increase in confidence. When you feel more confident and build your self-esteem, your mental health automatically improves. Additionally, gaining a new skill can help you gain a sense of identity and pride, which offers a more positive view of yourself.

Invites Happiness

During volunteer activities, your brain activity spikes along with feel-good hormones. Part of human design is to be in a community with one another and serving or helping others. When you volunteer, you’re directly impacting the neighborhood you’re serving, which contributes to the greater whole.

When you help others, you feel good in general. A term called the “helper’s high” is used to describe how people feel after volunteering. You have a sense of calmness and greater self-worth for the few days or weeks following a volunteer opportunity. You feel satisfied, content and joyful.

Boosts Physical Health, Helping Mental Health

Finally, volunteering may provide you with the chance to get physical activity, too. It gets you moving, which is an excellent form of exercise. Maybe you get to walk dogs or construct something — both involve some sort of physical movement.

When you’re physically active, your mental health improves. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy as volunteers walk more and move more than the average person. This leads to a decreased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease as well. Knowing the physical health benefits of volunteering gives peace of mind for your future health.

Volunteer for Your Mental Health

Volunteering has improved the mental health of many lives. Would you start volunteering?

Also by Kara Reynolds:

About the author:

Kara Reynolds is the Editor-in-Chief and founder of Momish Magazine.  Mom, stepmom, and wife – Kara wants to normalize big blended families. She enjoys pilates, peanut butter, and pinot grigio – but not at the same time.

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