Why it’s good for you to get involved

volunteering benefits

It’s National Volunteering Week and as well as being a reet lovely thing to do, helping others can also make you both healthy and happier.

If you’re thinking about volunteering it’s probably because you want to help others, and that’s fantastic, you glorious angel fish of a human.

Turns out there are loads of benefits for you too though, which is some good karma right there. Here’s a whole host of reasons why you’ll want to get your volunteering pants on and get out there.

Good for others

The number one top-of-the-list reason obviously has to be that volunteering helps others. If you’ve volunteered before you’ll probably have had the people you’re helping thank you, which is a really lovely feeling.

If you’re more of a nuts-and-bolts person, then let me hit you with a figure – it’s estimated that volunteers bring around £22.6 billion to charities each year, which is absolutely amazing.

It’s also been shown that living in areas where lots of people give up their time for others can bring better health, reduce crime and increase life satisfaction for the whole community. Students from these areas even bagged higher GCSE grades.

Good for the mind

Volunteering is good for your mood and good for your mind too.

Switch on the news right now and the top stories are probably something along the lines of ‘No fish left in the ocean because humans are the worst’ and ‘This latest political move is totally crazy but don’t worry the ice caps are melting so we’ll all have to become fish-people to survive anyway’.

Basically, it’s easy to feel very helpless and like everything sucks. Volunteering makes you feel like a rescue boat in the chaotic storm that is life, and helps you take back some control.

It’s also a great opportunity to make new friends and, as loneliness is considered one of the great epidemics of our time, that’s something none of us would turn down right now. If you volunteer at an animal shelter those friends might even be furry, which is an added bonus.

Researchers measuring hormones and brain activity have also found helping others gives humans (and I quote) ‘immense pleasure’, so in theory I can now swap that extra bar of chocolate for an extra hour volunteering each week and be equally as happy.

Giving your time to others also builds self-esteem and self-confidence, especially if you’re a bit shy and want an easy way to connect with others, and can give you some great skills for your CV while you’re at it. Oh yeah, and it can actually be fun too!

Good for the body

Volunteering can literally help you live longer. Is it the secret to immortality? I don’t know, but what I can say is that studies have found people who volunteer are likely to live longer than people who don’t.

It can also keep you sprightly in your older years. Older volunteers tend to get about more, struggle less with everyday jobs, stay more mentally on it and keep blood pressure down.

Research suggests volunteering helps reduce symptoms of chronic pain as well as the risk of heart disease, and it’s also been shown to help people with disabilities or chronic health conditions, ranging from hearing and vision loss to heart disease, diabetes or digestive disorders.

If you’re worried at all about the physical practicalities of volunteering though, there are ways to volunteer from home via computer or phone.

Find what’s right for you

At the end of the day, there are lots of options for helping people in a way that fits around your interests and lifestyle.

You could be a steward at a fun run, play with rescue cats, mentor young people, cultivate green spaces (shout-out to World Environment Day) or help feed homeless people.

Research shows that just two to three hours of volunteer time per week, which works out around 100 hours a year, brings the most benefits – both you and the cause you’re helping.

Ways to get involved

There are loads of great initiatives out there if you have a quick look online or at your local community centre or library.

If you’d like to support Alzheimer’s Society, for example, its Side-by-Side scheme matches volunteers with people living with dementia. You could have a cuppa while debating politics, go for a walk in the great outdoors or bond over your shared love of china figurines.

Open Kitchen MCR, Manchester’s one and only waste food catering social enterprise, is always on the look-out for volunteers too. If you fancy getting some experience in the kitchen, or just enjoy cooking, then get in touch to find out more.

We run neighbourhood clean-ups and other community initiatives too, so keep an eye on the website and social media to get involved.

Final thing – often volunteering initiatives will cover expenses so you won’t be out of pocket if you have to travel to volunteer – make sure to ask when you sign up!

Onward customers can get in touch if you want to find out more about volunteering opportunities in your area

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