Volunteering boosts mood and fights depression
When we run our employment programme we always recommend volunteer work, either to fill gaps in a CV, boost skills or to try out a new career path; but there are more benefits than that to volunteering, much to do with the social aspect rather than any skills or job.
Volunteering allows us to interact with others and make connections, and the process of volunteering has been shown to allow us to value others and for other to value us; this feeling of being valued and connected has been shown to be key in helping those in therapy for depression. Those who suffer from depression experience increasingly negative thoughts, which often set off a spiral of more and more negative thoughts. Volunteering forces you to break this cycle by taking positive actions, shifting focus and changing thought processes.
Depression, anxiety and other mental health problems are so hard to fight because they change the way the brain works, they change your perspective, your brain can feel foggy and processing any information can be very difficult. Volunteering allows you to interact with others and offers you different perspectives on life, as you meet so many people from different walks of life, this can cause shifts in perspective, such as ‘I do have these skills’ rather than ‘I have no skills’. Making the switch from negative to positive thinking and boosting self-esteem is often critical in fighting depression, volunteering teaches new skills, builds on existing ones and allows you to recognise and be recognised for your skills. All of this accumulates to a higher sense of self-worth and higher level of confidence.
It’s not just mental health that can be improved through volunteering, studies have shown that those who volunteer have lower blood pressure and lower stress levels. There are many volunteer opportunities that are based outdoors, which improve physical fitness. Improved physical and mental health can mean less coughs and colds, due to boosted immune system, which in turn can help take some pressure off our NHS. Volunteering is a win for everyone!