How Volunteering Could Improve your Wellbeing
It’s well known that volunteering can benefit the environment and other people—but what about its effects on your personal wellbeing?
We know that you don’t volunteer for your own benefit. Most people who volunteer do it for purely selfless reasons, and we’re incredibly grateful for that! Despite this, it’s worth talking about some of the welcome side-effects that volunteering can have. Evidence suggests that volunteering on a regular basis can have fantastic impacts on your physical and mental wellbeing, but most people don’t realise this! That’s why we’ve created a summary of some of the fantastic benefits that volunteering can offer.
Help Others, Help Yourself
According to the Mental Health Foundation, actions which we take to help other people can improve our mood. Physiological changes in the brain can be observed following the performance of selfless behaviours; your brain chemistry changes in response to helping someone! Repeating this altruistic behaviour can lead to better overall wellbeing, so volunteering on a regular basis could make a huge difference to your mindset.
Break a Sweat, Heal Your Mind
When you volunteer with a conservation-based organisation like those in the Rivers Trust movement, it’s likely you’re going to be doing manual work. Whether that’s wading through rivers, bashing invasive balsam, or cleaning up your local stream, it’s a great way to work up a sweat. Research has repeatedly demonstrated a link between physical activity and mental wellbeing, so joining in with a clean up could improve your fitness and your mental health.
A Nature-based Prescription
Spending time outdoors is associated with reduced levels of stress, depression and anxiety. Rivers in particular have also been shown to have a positive effect; a “River Remedies” programme was shown to improve wellbeing in vulnerable teenagers and adults. The study, commissioned by the Environment agency and run by Eunomia in partnership with Bristol Avon Rivers Trust. This scheme involved outdoor sessions covering a variety of river-related activities, ranging from litter picking to water sampling. The participants reported increased levels of wellbeing following these activities, suggesting that spending time by the river had improved their mood.
Finding Your Tribe
By volunteering with a group that aligns with your personal values, you’ll meet like-minded people. Even though making friends might not be on your mind when you decide to volunteer, it’s a fantastic side effect. Forming new friendships can reduce feelings of isolation and provide you with a support network. Finding your ‘niche’ within our movement could drastically improve your wellbeing.