Volunteering: The Wellness Benefits + Tips for Starting Out
It is human nature to feel good when you help someone out – doing good does you good. It’s a tonic for our mental health, boosting confidence, reducing stress, and often increasing skills and experience in the process – and, ever since the pandemic hit, it’s been on the rise. We want to support our communities more than ever before. This year, in 2021, 16.3 million of us volunteered formally for a group, club or organisation, and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations reported a drastic increase in those of us informally volunteering, to help people outside of their own family and friends network.
How does volunteering help our mental health?
Giving is one of the evidenced five ways of wellbeing, with the increased feelings of happiness enabling our internal reward system. Scientific studies into the effects of giving have demonstrated that, for example, those of who us who spend more money on others are happier, and those people who volunteer to help others are healthier.
I love the idea of giving as a pillar of wellbeing, be it a small act of kindness, a donation, fundraising for a charity or giving your own time through a formal voluntary placement. The Mental Health Foundation has created a list of random acts of kindness to inspire you and the Random Acts of Kindness organisation is clear that kindness is not a fluffy concept all about Instagram captions – when kindness is practiced, people’s lives are changed and communities get better.
How do I go about becoming a volunteer?
If you would like to formally volunteer here are few tips to get you started
Give it some thought
Think about your interests/hobbies, personal values, lived experiences or even try something new
Consider what time you can give – no point in signing up if you do not have the capacity.
Do you have any particular skills or professional expertise you could offer an organisation?
Start your research
What are some organisations I could look into?
As a small business owner and an individual in my own right, I have a number of different ways that I voluntarily give my time and expertise to different organisations. I do hope these three very different examples will inspire you to find your own way of giving back to your community, no matter how small it all matters.
I have been a patron for the UK anxiety charity No Panic for a number of years. This was down to my own experience of being diagnosed with two anxiety disorders and wanting to volunteer my time for a cause I had a personal lived experience of navigating. I have helped to increase awareness of the charity, created workshops, written blog posts and supported their head office with my business skills.
During lockdown I became aware of Indigo Volunteers, a charity that recruits volunteers and connects them with humanitarian projects in Europe. I have had the opportunity to provide free webinars to Indigo employees across Europe, on a range of wellbeing topics during the pandemic. I have also donated my time to coach individuals who may need support or who are struggling.
Back in September 2019, I launched my own Community Interest Company, Champs for Change. Our first project was to pilot a 6-month coaching programme for women who are in thrivership from domestic violence in partnership with WE:ARE. This was a learning curve for me, as it was the first time I have had to recruit my own volunteers. I needed five coaches to work with the women and a small team of clinical supervisors to donate their time to support the coaches.
“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu
Ruth Cooper-Dickson is a Positive Psychology Practitioner and qualified Coach, who has studied Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology. She is the Founder and MD of the global mental wealth people consultancy, CHAMPS, partnering with progressive organisations helping them to ingrain a culture of positive mental wealth. Ruth is a passionate runner, an addicted life-long learner and a lover of all things cake