As the holidays draw nearer and the coldest and loneliest months of the year are coming, it’s a time when many people in the world turn their focus to helping others through volunteer work like spending time at food banks or soup kitchens, raising money for medical research, running drives for gifts or clothing, or donating their time to other charitable organizations.
This, of course, is a great thing for communities and for those in need, providing them with valuable support and resources, but it’s also a good thing for the individual doing the volunteering. Taking part in philanthropic efforts and charitable work can have huge positive impacts on your mental health and well-being, so in a time of year that tends to have some people feeling lonely and down on themselves, it’s a great thing to work into your schedule. Here are some of the benefits that volunteering can have on your mental health!
Isolation and loneliness are major contributors to depression, and they’re believed to be a factor in SAD, or seasonal depression, as well, since we all tend to be a bit more solitary in the cold winter months. Taking part in activities that will get you out of your daily routine and talking to people is a good way to fight back against this loneliness and the low moods and bad headspace that it can aggravate.
Promotes Positive Interpersonal Interaction
A good, engaging conversation with a friendly person is worth its weight in gold when it comes to your mental health. Even if you’re a largely introverted person who has low needs for interpersonal interaction, humans are still hard-wired to be social creatures with a need for the company and community of other humans, and meeting people, talking with them, and working together with them on a volunteer project is great for your mental well-being overall.
When you volunteer at the same place with the same groups of people enough, you move past the stage of basic social interaction and move into a genuine friendship! This is also a powerful booster for your mood and mental health. Spending time with friends that you love and who love you makes you feel understood, appreciated, and supported. Even better, volunteering is a great way to make friends because it leads you to people who have similar interests and values to you, creating strong and lasting friendships.
Creates Engagement and Activity
There’s a reason that it’s common to see exercise, changes in routine, or creative hobbies listed as ways to improve your mental health. The low energy, numbness, and sadness that comes along with depression and many other mental health problems are exacerbated by monotony, boredom, and unhealthy routines. They offer your brain and body no stimulation, making it hard to keep your mood up. Activities like volunteering, however, get you out of the house and out of your fog, frequently requiring you to move and get some beneficial physical activity, like walking or lifting boxes. Charity work gets you engaged in your community and the world outside of the gray cloud of mental illness, helping to increase your energy and help you feel more positive!
Increases Well-Being and Self Esteem
Nearly all of the common mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to emotional trauma, can make you feel bad about yourself and affect your self-image. Feeling worthless or having a poor opinion of yourself is a major red flag to look out for in your own mindset. While it’s a common thing to experience with mental illness, if you’re having these thoughts, you’re not “just fine,” and there are ways you can help yourself and seek help from others! Volunteering can be a great way to combat this mindset. When you know that you’ve done good work and helped others, you feel better about yourself, and your self worth and self esteem rises. That’s worth the time and effort it takes to sign up for your next local charity event!
If you’re feeling down as the holiday season approaches, volunteering can be a great way to shake off the blues and help yourself feel better. Interested in learning about other ways to fight depression and mental health struggles? Continue reading our blog here for more information!