Why volunteering can make you happy

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Volunteer friends walking with a dog shelter

Got some spare time and want to give back to help others? Find out how volunteering can be good for you as well as your community

Volunteering might be something that many of us have considered in our lives, but never got around to actually doing. Heres’ why you should

There is more evidence than ever that volunteering has a postitive impact not just on the charity or people you’re helping, but on ourselves as well. According to a 2014 report, an estimated 15.2 million people volunteer at least once a month in the UK, and many health experts point to its benefits, both on our psychological and physical wellbeing.

Through the Boundless Foundation we support various charities, including Make-A-Wish, Guide Dogs, Mind and Independent Age, and many Boundless members regularly give up their time for these life-saving, and life-enhancing organisations.

So, if you’re contemplating giving up some of your spare time to help others, here are a few ways in which volunteering can improve your life too...

Meeting new people

If you’re new to an area, or if you simply want to extend your social circle, volunteering will help you make new friends. It broadens your support network and exposes you to a wider variety of people, from all walks of life. Who knows, your next friend-for-life might be serving cake at the next coffee morning or helping in your local homeless shelter.

Giving something back

Volunteering is an opportunity to rememeber that there are a lot of people in the world who are less fortunate than us and allows us to give something back to our local area. Volunteers help create better environments for others. They create healthier communities and brighten lives.

“A huge benefit is the feeling of giving something back to your community, a good cause or something you believe in,” says Lucy Leeming, Community Fundraising Manager
For Make-A-Wish UK. “Whether you donate a day a week, or a couple of hours a month – it all goes to helping others and doing something good with little effort. For our charity we couldn’t continue granting wishes without the support of our volunteers.”

Spend time with the elderly for charity

Learning new skills

Volunteering allows you to gain new skills in your own time that you might not pick up elsewhere. By embracing new situations and new environments, you’ll be taking yourself out of your comfort zone and will come away from your experience not just spiritually richer but you’ll be armed with new skills that may well be useful in other areas of your life. It can make you more employable and demonstrates commitment to a cause.

Keeping the mind active

Meeting new people, acquiring new skills, doing new tasks, there’s a lot to keep the mind nimble with volunteering. Our minds atrophy when we’re stuck doing the same thing, with the same people, in the same surroundings, day after day. Getting out and about helps keep you feeling younger and more engaged with the world around you. A new academic study this year suggests that volunteering at least one hour per week can also substantially reduce the development of dementia in older people.

“It definitely keeps your mind stimulated,” says Lucy. “For the older generation it is an ideal activity to keep busy and keep thinking at a time when perhaps their lives have slowed down a little. It can bring more variety to your life.”

Volunteer your spare time to charity shops

A sense of wellbeing

Volunteering provides a boost to your confidence and self-esteem. As you are doing good for others and for your community, it gives you a sense of pride and identity. The better you feel about yourself, the better equipped you are to achieve other goals in your life. A satisfying life depends on trying new things and seeking out new experiences. It also helps relieve stress and staves off depression.

“I know of volunteers that have really had their spirits lifted by volunteering,” says Lucy. “It’s helped them get over difficult times in their lives. It’s known to reduce stress, combat depression and reduce anxiety. I think helping and working with others is a really positive thing.”

Paying it forward

While volunteers aren’t paid for their efforts, many say that the work and experience they have gained as a volunteer is worth much more than any financial reward they’ve ever received from any other line of work.

“It’s the volunteers that are at the heart of an organisation,” says Lucy, “to have people committed to give up their time to help an organisation is incredibly important and something all charities will value. We all lead incredibly busy lives and it can be difficult to find the time to commit. But volunteering doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment. It could be helping at a bucket collection twice a year in your local shopping centre. Or two hours on a Saturday morning helping at a local hospice reception. There are a variety of opportunities and it’s about finding the right one for you.”

Interested in doing some volunteering? Find more information about the Boundless Foundation here and get involved.

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