Volunteering has always been a common occurrence in the United States, and around the globe, with people giving their time and effort each year to help others without an expectation of reciprocation or compensation.
There is research that shows that volunteering leads to better health and that older volunteers are more likely to receive physical and mental health benefits as a result of these activities. This is something that researchers and the Corporation for National and Community Service refer to as the “helper’s high”. Volunteering is also associated with increased trust in others and increased social and political participation.
How Volunteering Can Be Helpful
Volunteering your time is a win-win situation. Not only will it hold obvious positive benefits for those that it is directly helping, however, but recent studies have also found that the benefits of volunteering are not limited to the recipients of the volunteer services. In fact, there is some evidence that those who give support through volunteer services will experience greater health benefits than those who receive support through these activities.
But the question is why are we seeing a connection between volunteer activities and healthier lives?
Evidence suggests that volunteering has a number of positive effects on social psychological factors, such as one’s sense of purpose. Moreover, these positive social psychological factors are correlated with lower risks of poor physical health. Similarly, volunteering can enhance a person’s ability to deal with stress and reduce risk of disease. There is also evidence that those who experience higher levels of happiness, self-satisfaction, self-esteem, a sense of control over life, and physical health, as well as lower levels of depression, were more likely to volunteer.
It should be noted that to experience these benefits, individuals generally must meet a limit of volunteering, something that is known as the “volunteering threshold” in order to receive the positive health benefits associated with volunteering. They need to commit a considerable amount of time, about one to two hours a week, to volunteer activities in order to gain these benefits.
Improving Mental Health
Along with volunteering, there are a number of ways that you can improve your mental health and overall sense of purpose and well-being. There are a few obvious ways that you can do this, such as increasing physical exercise, prioritizing a healthy diet, and cutting out unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking. In fact, learning how to stop drinking is a great way to improve overall health while saving money.
Besides these, there are a few other ways that you can improve your mental health by making just a few lifestyle changes.
Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness techniques have been used in the past as possible treatments for mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Yoga classes and practices can range from gentle to strenuous and difficult. According to Harvard Health, evidence suggests that yoga can help reduce stress responses with anxiety and depression.
Keep A Journal
One easy way that you can help your situation is by keeping a journal that you write in daily. It is not super important what exactly you write, but it can be a good idea to focus on a few positive things for each entry. If you make an effort to remind yourself of the good things that you’ve experienced on certain days, it can help to improve mood and deal with symptoms of depression.
There is much evidence that shows that staying socially engaged will help people confront and deal with problems related to mental health. In one study published in the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, researchers found that both social network and social support are correlated strongly with better recovery for people with serious mental illnesses.
These are just a few options that are available to you if you are looking to improve your mental health and overall well-being.