Volunteering for Wellbeing

Mental wellbeing describes your state of mind and how you feel about yourself and how well you cope with day to day life. Our mental health is transient and can alter day by day depending on circumstance and environment. Positive mental wellbeing means feeling good about yourself and there are steps that we can all take to enhance the mental wellbeing of not only ourselves but that of others.

Acts of giving are credited with improving personal wellbeing. And that doesn’t mean giving your partner a tenner and sending them off to the pub for a bit whilst you take a nice bath (although that would certainly be nice from time to time).

Helping and supporting local projects and people can widen your own social circle, help you make friends and introduce you to new hobbies that you may never have considered before. Small acts of kindness towards others or committing to volunteering for a local community project and give you a sense of purpose and make your happy hormones smile.

As people come to the realisation that a healthy work/life balance is important and actually enhances their performance in the workplace, employees are looking for not just a competitive salary and pension but also wellbeing benefits such as EAP’s, cycle to work scheme and additional leave days specifically allocated to local community projects of their choosing.

Volunteering opportunities are plentiful but for the first time can be daunting, particularly if you have struggled with a mental illness that has taken you out of your social circle or workplace for a while. So, it is important to think carefully about how you may approach this and speak to your chosen project about what they expect from you but most importantly ascertain if can they empathise and support you if you have struggled to get to or have been unable to attend your volunteer day. What could be worse than arriving at your project to not be listened to, or your illness dismissed as folly because the person you come into contact doesn’t understand what it may be like for you today?

A few years ago I volunteered at a local community project. At the time I had a small child who didn’t sleep, I had left my job to be a full time mum and I had emerging marital problems. Whilst I went to playgroup with my son and made some really good friends I needed an outlet that didn’t revolve around babies and all the mummy chatter that goes with it. I volunteered for two hours each Saturday morning at our local community garden. I pruned, I planted and I picked. I spent time outdoors (and sometimes time indoors huddled around the fire with a brew when the weather cut up rough). For those two hours each week I was able to disconnect from the issues at home, be with nature, be with people and it really improved my mental wellbeing.

If volunteering for a group sounds like a step too far out of your comfort zone right now, don’t worry and just start small. You could:

  • Ask a colleague how they are and really listen to what they are saying.
  • Lend a hand to a stranger.
  • Offer to help a neighbour in the garden.

Find out how to volunteer in your local community and give your time to help others.

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