Volunteering and well-being

Reasons to volunteer

There are many reasons why someone may choose to take up volunteering.  Here are just a few:

  • Loneliness.
  • To meet new people.
  • To gain valuable work experience/learn new skills.
  • To find a new interest/hobby.
  • Redundancy.
  • Mental health issues.
  • Lack of routine.
  • To give something back to society or the community.

Volunteering provides people with an opportunity to make a difference to their own life and to the lives of others. Whether you are feeling low or just looking for something new to do, becoming a volunteer can have many benefits.   

Benefits of volunteering

Meeting new people, making new friends and socialising can have a profound effect on your well-being. If you are struggling with confidence, just making that initial enquiry can be the first step to rebuilding your self-confidence. Volunteering can provide you with a purpose, a sense of achievement and a sense of worth.  

Research shows that volunteering can help to reduce stress, anxiety and even anger. Irrespective of your age or life circumstances, volunteering can help to take your mind off your worries and give you something to focus on. 

Volunteering is good for your mind and your body and can help you to stay physically fit. Learning new skills and gaining experience could be a step into paid employment. Volunteering could even lead to gaining qualifications and above all, it can be great fun.    

What kind of volunteering?        

There are literally hundreds of volunteering opportunities out there. The key is to do your research. Find something that you will enjoy, that meets your needs, capabilities and interests. 

Things to consider:

  • What causes are important to me?
  • Do I want to work with animals?
  • Do I want to work with people?
  • Do I prefer working with children, adults or the elderly?
  • Would I prefer working indoors or outdoors?     
  • How much time am I willing to commit?

Here, one of my client’s tells her experience of how volunteering has helped her through a difficult period in her life:

“My husband left me after 40 years together. I was devastated, and needed something to occupy me both mentally and physically to stop the possible downward spiral into depression.

I have always had an interest in the outdoors, nature, and the environment, so I enquired about the Wildlife Trust and found a local group of volunteers. It made such a difference to my mental state, to be with a group of people who also had the same interests, who accepted me into their group, without question.

I came to look forward to the "tasks" working with nature, in beautiful surroundings, so much so, that I volunteered with more groups. It gave me a purpose, something to plan for and look forward to. It provided me with company, it kept me physically fit and tired me which helped with sleep problems. I learned about nature and it made me appreciate the wonder of things around me that I had previously taken for granted. The social aspect, alongside the feeling of well-being when "giving something back" has made a huge difference to my life. It has raised my self-esteem, made me feel that I am worthwhile and helped me to empathise with others who may be starting on this journey for whatever reason. It has prompted me to look into other types of volunteering, because of the "feel good factor" it brings.”

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bolton, Greater Manchester, BL5
Written by Fiona Foster, MBACP (Accred) Counsellor / Psychotherapist
Bolton, Greater Manchester, BL5

Fiona Foster is an experienced accredited counsellor registered with the BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy).

Fiona runs a private practice within Greater Manchester. Her practice integrates different therapies to take into account the individual needs and uniqueness of each client.

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