What are the benefits of volunteering for our mental health?

Volunteering isn’t just great for the community, it has a positive impact on mental health.

Almost 20% of Victorians [1] lend a helping hand each year for the common good – it is a significant part of our how things get done in our community. In fact, the dollar value of volunteering in Victoria is estimated to be worth around $16.4 billion [2]. But in an increasingly busy and fast-paced world, what attracts so many of us to do unpaid work? Turns out the benefits of volunteering on our mental health are a major factor.

 

What are the benefits of volunteering for mental health?

In addition to the satisfaction gained from contributing to something we care about, the act of doing work in kind can improve our mental health in multiple ways. Here are some research-backed examples:

 

1. Improve mood and overall happiness

By giving back to our community and helping those in need, our overall mood and outlook on life is better. Research shows one of the benefits of volunteering is that it can help you feel better about yourself by improving your self-esteem and confidence. One study showed people who volunteer were 42% more likely to rate their overall mood as “very happy” [3] compared to non-volunteers.

 

2. More satisfaction in life

Feeling as though we have a role and a purpose has a positive influence on mental health and wellbeing, which is why volunteer roles can contribute greatly to our satisfaction in life. A study that tracked the mental health of over 70,000 participants over 18 years showed that people who had volunteered in the past year were more satisfied with their lives and rated their overall health as better.[4]

 

3. Increased social connection

Building relationships and expanding our support network strengthens our sense of belonging – a key factor in maintaining mental health. When we feel a part of a community and can socialise with others while doing something good, it helps to build meaningful connections in our life. One study of over 200 participants reported significant improvements in their mental health [5] due to volunteering benefits such as increased social activity.

 

Want to get involved as a volunteer in the community?

There are lots of different ways you can give back to the community and gain the benefits of volunteering for your mental health. Start by thinking about the kinds of causes you are interested in supporting and then reach out to relevant people or organisations to see how you can contribute.

Not sure where to start? Below are a few examples of great organisations in Victoria who take volunteers:

 

Where to volunteer in Victoria

 

Alternatively, you can search for specific volunteer roles promoted on Volunteering Victoria.

 

Other ideas to get start as a volunteer:

  • Contact your local council to see if you can volunteer for upcoming community events
  • Drop into a local small business and inquire about donating your time to help out
  • See if you can pitch in at the canteen or the next event at a nearby school
  • Offer your time to assist the residents and staff at a local nursing home

Or why not start your own initiative and give your skills and time to a cause you support?

The mutual benefits of volunteering, particularly when it comes to our mental health, are a strong incentive for people to donate their time and efforts to the greater good. Why not explore how you can roll up your sleeves and get involved today?

 

If you are struggling and want to speak to a professional counsellor, SuicideLine Victoria is available 24/7. Call us on 1300 651 251.

If it is an emergency, dial 000.

 

References

  1. http://volunteeringvictoria.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Facts-Stats-10-Jan-2018.pdf
  2. https://www.volunteeringaustralia.org/wp-content/uploads/The-Economic-Value-of-Volunteering-in-Victoria.pdf
  3. https://www.sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/05/03/7-surprising-benefits-of-volunteering-.html
  4. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_volunteering_can_help_your_mental_health
  5. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_seniors_get_from_giving_back

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