To volunteer your time for the benefit of others, is the greatest gift any one could ever give. The way the world is today, with hate, racism, religious differences, a great divide between our people, who all bleed the same, being a volunteer can and will make a change even if it is just small steps at a time. Here are some reasons why should volunteer…
You may recognize the expression “it is better to give than receive”, but did you know this is backed up by research?
People who are kind and compassionate see clear benefits to their wellbeing and happiness. They may even live longer. Kindness can also help reduce stress and improve our emotional wellbeing.1,2
We all have so much going on in our lives - including competing strains and stresses – not to mention the current coronavirus pandemic. This can see kindness pushed to one side, in favor of what is urgent or trending now.
It can be easy to signal kindness by posting online and following a trend, but harder to commit to kindness in our daily words and actions.
But if we take the time to be kind to other people, we can reap the emotional dividends. It can really make a difference and especially for people who are vulnerable or struggling.
Now is the time to re-imagine a kinder society that better protects our mental health.
Kindness could be built into business decisions, government policy and official systems in a way that supports everyone’s mental health and also reduces discrimination and inequality.-But that can start by individual commitments to showing kindness in our words and our actions.
We have written this guide to show the positive impact helping others can have on your own mental health, including some tips and suggestions to inspire you.
So, take a few minutes, have a read and think about doing something kind for a friend or a stranger today.
What do we mean by kindness?
Kindness is choosing to do something that helps others or yourself, motivated by genuine warm feelings.
Kindness, or doing good, often means putting other people’s needs before our own. It could be by giving up our seat on a bus to someone who might need it more, or offering to make a cup of tea for someone at work.
Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing. For example, it can reduce stress as well as improve mood, self-esteem and happiness.1–3
There are so many ways to help others as part of our everyday lives. Good deeds needn’t take much time or cost any money.
Small changes can make a big difference.
This guide gives you tips on how to bring kindness into your life. We will look in more detail at:
- Doing something for a good cause
- Acts of kindness
What are the health benefits of kindness?
Helping others feels good
Studies have found that acts of kindness are linked to increased feelings of wellbeing.1 Helping others can also improve our support networks and encourage us to be more active.4 This, in turn, can improve our self-esteem.5 There is some evidence to suggest that when we help others, it can promote changes in the brain that are linked with happiness.2
It creates a sense of belonging and reduces isolation
Helping others is thought to be one of the ways that people create, maintain, and strengthen their social connections.
For example, volunteering and helping others can help us feel a sense of belonging, make new friends, and connect with our communities.5,6
Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at a food bank can also help reduce loneliness and isolation.6
It helps keep things in perspective
Many people don’t realize the impact a different perspective can have on their outlook on life.
There is some evidence that being aware of our own acts of kindness, as well as the things we are grateful for, can increase feelings of happiness, optimism and satisfaction.7,8
Doing good may help you to have a more positive outlook about your own circumstances.
It helps to make the world a happier place – one act of kindness can often lead to more!
Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. An act of kindness can boost feelings of confidence, being in control, happiness and optimism.8
They may also encourage others to repeat the good deeds they’ve experienced themselves – contributing to a more positive community.9
The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself
The benefits of helping others can last long after the act itself, for those offering kindness, and those who benefit. This, in turn, can improve our self-esteem.5
Tips to remember before you start
Do something you enjoy
At times like this we are learning to adapt to the requirements needed to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As a result we have had to rethink the way we do our hobbies, and pursue our interests.
You might have treated a friend to a trip to the cinema or for dinner, but today, you can watch something on a streaming service and keep in touch by phone or gift them a takeaway instead. You could even gift a subscription to an entertainment service, magazine or drop off (safely) a simple care package.
You can share your skills, such as offering to help with technology, sharing recipes, or sewing masks or scrubs for key workers. These are all great ways to bring your skills and interests to others.
Keep others in mind
Although acts of kindness for other people can make us feel good, we need to also keep in mind why we’re doing it – which is for their benefit, not ours.
Part of being kind is considering the feelings of others, so it is very important that your kindness is something which others will find helpful. Kindness is something that needs to benefit both parties.
See what you can do that others are not doing already. For example, if you want to donate to a foodbank, see what they need before buying things. If you want to support key workers, check that there is a need where you are. It may be that others in your community need help more urgently.
Don’t overdo it
It’s important to make sure we don’t overdo it!
If we find we are giving too much of ourselves or have gone beyond our means, it’s probably time to take a step back. It’s very easy to give away all of our energy, especially if we are finding things hard ourselves and want to focus on others. Leave enough for you – kindness has to start with yourself.
We recommend starting small, so we do not become overwhelmed or give more than we are financially able.
Helping others doesn’t have to cost money or take a lot of time. It could start with calling a friend we haven’t spoken to in a while or donating a small amount of money monthly to a charity close to our heart and within our budget.10
Get involved with volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to help others and research shows that it benefits people of all ages, through increasing feelings of self-esteem, social connection, and wellbeing.5
If you have friends or neighbors who are shielding (because of coronavirus) and can’t leave the house, see what you can do to help.
If you have time, especially if you are furloughed from work, you could volunteer in your community if it’s safe for you to do so.
Here are some ideas about getting involved:
- Volunteer for a local community organization
- Offer your expertise and support as a mentor for those who are struggling
- Check in safely with a neighbor who is isolated or shielding
- See if there’s anything you can do to support your children’s school or nursery – offer to read stories by video for example
- Involve your friends and neighbors in community projects
- You could start up an online book club or film club
- Offer to skill-share with a friend via video call – you could teach guitar, dance or a new recipe.
- Call a friend that you haven’t spoken to for a while
- Tell a family member how much you love and appreciate them
To find out more about volunteering opportunities, check out our suggested organizations at the end of this guide.
Doing something for a good cause
Getting involved with a cause that is close to your heart can be hugely beneficial for both the cause and your own sense of wellbeing.4,10
For example, if you want to help protect the environment, you could get involved in a local tree-planting scheme.
It may be on hold during the coronavirus lockdown, but you could start by identifying a few local organizations to contact about how they can use volunteers.
Information provided by: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/kindness/kindness-matters-guide