Health and well-being are at the forefront of people’s minds these days.

Whilst we must all ensure our bodies are at their peak of fitness, it is also vital to safeguard our mental health.

Our mental well-being has been put under enormous strain over the last few months, with isolation, separation from our loved ones and boredom playing on our minds.

How do we build up our mental resilience as we tentatively venture out into society?

Therapy and medication have their place, but there are other life-affirming activities that can give our mental balance a reboot and our lives a new structure.

Volunteering is an excellent way to re-stimulate the mind and to help others.

Here at Wales Air Ambulance we have an excellent team of volunteers who provide a vital link between our lifesaving crews and those offered emergency help. Put simply, without our volunteers we wouldn’t have an air ambulance service.

But how does volunteering help with mental health? Here are seven ways:

 

  1. It can reduce isolation: We have all had moments during lockdown when we’ve felt separated or isolated from those most important to us. It’s vital that we rebuild connections, and volunteering is an excellent way to practise social skills, get out of our house and mix with others. But it’s not just the elderly suffering from loneliness. A study by the Community Life Survey found those aged 16-24 were most likely to feel isolated.
  2. Gives a sense of meaning or purpose: Those who have suffered from depression may feel a loss of meaning in life. Volunteering can reignite that feeling that you have a place in society, are valued and there is a purpose in what you do to help others.
  3. Boosts confidence: What better way to boost your own confidence than to take part in an activity that actively improves others’ lives? Volunteering can give you a sense of achievement and fulfilment that could carry through to other parts of your life.
  4. Increases the ‘happiness effect’: According to research by the London School of Economics, the more we volunteer the happier we become! Those who volunteered every month reported being ‘very happy’ 7% more than those who didn’t volunteer at all. Among those who volunteered weekly that happiness level rose by 16%. It’s not just your mental health that improves, volunteering just 200 hours per year was found to lower blood pressure.
  5. Provides structure: Regular volunteering sessions can give a vital sense of structure to a week, and can provide a good steppingstone to full-time work, and might even help with a CV.
  6. Could lead to lifelong friendships: We’re such a friendly bunch here, and will always give you a warm welcome, but the new people you meet today could become the lifelong friends of tomorrow. The more solid friends you have who can share burdens – or even just a coffee – the better, and volunteering is an excellent way to meet new people.

 

  1. Helping others gives a sense of perspective: It is often through meeting a wide variety of people that we can put our own experiences into perspective. Spending time in others’ company can help take some of the emphasis away from our own thoughts and make us feel more positive.

Whatever your reason for getting involved in volunteering, it can be a hugely rewarding experience that can positively change your life.

If you’re experiencing mental health issues consider speaking to your GP or contact Mind Cymru. See here for more details.