Thinking About Volunteering?
Why is volunteering so important?
Volunteering has been around since the 12th Century, where it was documented that over 500 hospitals in the UK were run by volunteers! But its really come to fruition in the 1900’s when people wanted to make some real changes in their communities by combatting the effects of poverty and alleviate deprivation.
My name is Karen and I’ve worked in the Third Sector for over 30 years, both as a paid worker and a volunteer! I volunteered with many organisations including the Cub scouts, Keep Wales Tidy, Neighbourhood watch, school PTA, as a school governor, and more recently I volunteered with a local mental health peer support group.
So why volunteer?
Volunteering provides many benefits to both mental and physical health.
It helps to counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. The social contact aspect of helping and being with others can have a positive effect on your overall physical and mental well-being. Stress can be relieved by spending meaningful time with another person with a similar connection to yourself. Working with pets and other animals has also been shown to improve mood and reduce stress and anxiety. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn enables you to become more resilient in dealing with anxiety and poor mental health. By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel. [Read: Cultivating Happiness]
When you are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment, you feel more confident. As a volunteer, the work you are doing can also give you a sense of pride, sense of purpose and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals.
People facing life transitions such as bereavement, redundancy, retirement, long term health conditions and loneliness, can find new meaning and direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more zest to your life.
Volunteering can be part of your 5 Ways to Wellbeing.
Volunteering mirrors the 5 Ways to Wellbeing and by building these into our lives we can enhance our wellbeing and resilience. Volunteering helps us connect with others, be more active physically and take notice of our surroundings, wellbeing and reflect on what matters to us, it helps us to keep learning new skills and enhance our existing skills, as well as giving to others including our community.
Connect: You can be a part of your local community.
Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and make it a better place. Even helping with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organisations in need, just making the tea, putting out the chairs for a session or delivering leaflets can make a big difference to both the community group and your sense of purpose and wellbeing.
Volunteering helps us make new friends and contacts by doing a shared activity together. It’s a great way to meet new people and broadens our support network, which helps us to build our resilience. It gives us the opportunity to do something new or different and purposeful with new friends with a common interest while having fun and feeling fulfilled.
Stay Active: Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy.
Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. When you are volunteering you are moving more and are therefore less likely to develop high blood pressure, stronger core muscles and have better thinking skills.
Learn: Volunteering can help you advance your career.
Volunteering can advance your career or even change the route you wish to take in your career. Even if you’re not planning on changing careers, volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice or learn important skills used in the workplace, such as teamwork, goals setting, communication, problem solving, project planning, task management, and organisation. It offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. It is also a great way to gain experience in a new field. In some roles, you can volunteer directly at an organisation that does the kind of work you’re interested in. For example, if you’re interested in nursing, you could volunteer at a hospital or a nursing home.
Why not try volunteering in your local area?
So, what is there not to love about volunteering, try it, it makes us and our communities more positive, healthy and resilient. You can register for volunteering opportunities with Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisations, Torfaen Voluntary Alliance Cyfle Cymru, Volunteer Matters, Volunteering Wales and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.
See Dewis Wales to find local opportunities to volunteer!
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