New Year, New Habits: Giving to Others

Giving is one of the key Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing, studies have shown that it can make us feel happier and more satisfied about life. Volunteering has also been linked to physical health benefits as well as improving mental wellbeing. Teenagers have been found to benefit from volunteering, as it can have a positive effect on grades and attitudes towards education, and lowers dropout rates and teen pregnancies.

In the past, I’ve volunteered for a city farm, a meals delivery service, Mexican arts charity, and at the moment, I’m at a Sue Ryder charity shop. Last year when I was at the charity shop, a teenager asked me why I volunteer and I actually found it a little difficult to explain.

The obvious reasons one might give are: it looks good on the CV, it’s a great way to learn or use your skills when looking for a job, it suits your interests, it gets you out the house, you meet people and the strongest motivator is having been touched by the cause. I found myself giving these standard reasons, and even though all these points are true, the reasons for volunteering are sometimes deeper.

A paper on volunteering showed that people with greater wellbeing tend to spend more time volunteering which means their actions become a virtuous cycle. We should learn from these volunteers and tap into this great way of improving our wellbeing. 

At the moment, I only volunteer one hour a week. I look forward to seeing people at the shop and it has become a habit for me. It can be hard to fit in volunteering if you work full time because you need your weekends to recharge, and see friends and family. 

Fortunately, there are so many ways to volunteer that you’ll be able to find something that suits your schedule. If you’re into nature you could volunteer for the Kent Wildlife Trust, or you can drive and join older guests at a local tea party with Contact the Elderly once a month. 

Contact the Elderly and Bisto have created Spare Chair Sunday where you can sign up as a host to welcome an older person to your home to have Sunday lunch with you so they don't have to always eat alone. 

There is an initiative called Casserole Club in which volunteers share extra portions of home-cooked food with older people in their area, it might not be running in your area but send them an email and it could encourage one to start.

Even if you have no time to volunteer, there are other ways to give as all acts of kindness and giving are associated with positive wellbeing. You could help look out for neighbours who are elderly and living alone. Take time to talk to them and offer your help. 

Giving can also be a smile, a hug, a compliment, taking the time to really listen, or telling someone you love them. It’s taking the time to think about other people. If we all do what we can then we are making the world a better place one community at a time.

More information

Find volunteering opportunities near you.

Share your things with your neighbours.

Learning to Give, this American website has teaching resources on giving.

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