It’s a great way to meet people and it can be brilliant for your career but did you know volunteering is also seriously good for your health?
A recent impact report by Citizens Advice Bureau says 80% of its volunteers believe volunteering has made them healthier. 1500 volunteers were canvassed on all aspects of their volunteering experience, and responses suggest the sense of empowerment and purpose gained through volunteering has significantly boosted their confidence, resilience and self-esteem. 3 out of 5 said they felt less stressed, and 3 in 4 of those previously diagnosed with a mental health problem felt better able to manage their condition.
Volunteers are statistically less prone to depression. A 2003 survey of people experiencing mental health issues suggested volunteering helps by creating a sense of direction and meaning, and 2008 research by CSV revealed the value of participation in recovering mental health. Volunteering can also reduce the risk of depressive illness developing from social isolation. New friends and enhanced self-worth mean stressful situations can be shared and a good support network makes problems less likely to become overwhelming.
Emma, who has volunteered for Oxfam, the RNLI and a south London Park Protection group, had suffered from the low energy and mood associated with hypothyroidism, She told CharityJob: “Volunteering has helped me find my personal strengths in my own time with like-minded people. It’s boosted my self-confidence greatly and given me a sense of pride and identity.”
In fact, numerous studies have revealed that volunteers generally feel happier about their lives. Research published in Social Science and Medicine by the London School of Economics even found a clear correlation between how much time people spent volunteering and how happy they said they were.
There are also physical health benefits, particularly if your voluntary job is active. While we’ve known for some time the positive impact of high-intensity aerobic activity, more recent research suggests moderate or even low intensity exercise, performed regularly, can improve overall physical health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Older volunteers in particular have shown a reduction in symptoms from chronic pain or heart conditions, and can even live longer.
Working in nature has its own particular benefits. Some scientists have proposed that humans are biologically attracted to nature, a phenomenon described as ‘biophilia,’ and researchers found even a view of nature through a window to measurably aid recovery after surgery. Working in a natural environment may have powerful effects on both psychological and physical well-being.
If all this has inspired you to give outdoor volunteering a try, there’s never been a better time to start. Join our happy Peppermint team at Camp Bestival this month and those lovely Bestival people will throw in a pass to the main Bestival in September as an extra thank–you. Check Festival Volunteer for this and other opportunities to volunteer in the great outdoors. It’ll do you good!