3 ways that Volunteering Contributes to Positive Mental Health
We often think that volunteering is an activity through which we give to others or give back to our community. That’s true! But it’s a two way street. Volunteers also derive great benefits from volunteering, benefits that include contributing to one’s own positive mental health. Mental health is described by the World Health Organization (WHO) as: a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community (WHO 2001a. p.1).
- A sense of belonging and acceptance
One of the best ways that newcomers to a community can gain a sense of belonging, is to actively participate in volunteer activity. Community festivals, neighbourhood associations, libraries and community centres all depend on volunteers and being part of a team can give the volunteer a very real sense of being part of their community and provide a great way to meet people and make new friends with common interests.
- Healthy lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle includes getting out of the house, enjoying the outdoors and being physically active. Physical activity has been found to improve some mental health conditions, particularly anxiety and depression. What better way to get active than to coach a sports team, take a senior on an outing or volunteer in a community garden?
Susan Ellis (president of Energize, Inc) states that “Volunteering is inherently an optimistic activity. No one volunteers for a cause they assume is hopeless. So the very act of participation implies a dream: this problem can be solved, this cause can succeed, this effort can make a difference.” Waking up every day and feeling hopeful because you know you are making a difference contributes to maintaining good mental health.
There are many reasons to spend some of your time each week volunteering your time and talent and good mental health is one of the best!