Hello angels, welcome back to my blog!
I volunteered from the age of fourteen to sixteen at a local charity shop named Julia’s House, a dedicated Dorset and Wiltshire hospice which supports children with life-limiting illnesses and their families, providing constant round-the-clock care. My time as a volunteer allowed me to help myself whilst helping others, and it was truly one of the best decisions I have ever made.
So, how can it improve your mental disorder?
Sufferers of anxiety and depression especially, can find themselves withdrawing from other people and society. These illnesses also mean that individuals lose interest in things that they used to enjoy, which contributes to their isolating behaviours. Suddenly you can find yourself in a cycle of loneliness that is extremely difficult to break out of.
Oxytocin is a ‘feel good hormone’ which is produced in a small area of the brain called the hypothalamus. It is released as a result of positive human interactions and also has the ability to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Individuals who release more oxytocin are happier and have stronger emotional relationships with others. By volunteering and being exposed to a number of other employees, workers and customers, your oxytocin chemical levels will rise, and in turn encourage you to initiate further social interactions in the future.
It can be especially difficult and scary to take that first step and put yourself in a new environment, but the end result has benefits which you are SO deserving of.
Without volunteers dedicating their time to support Julia’s House the charity wouldn’t be able to provide respite care to very sick children, which gives them a genuine quality of life. The difference which volunteers make to the lives of these children is invaluable. Making this possible is likely to increase volunteers’ self-esteem and prove that they should view themselves in a positive light. Mental illnesses can make your self-esteem plummet. Therefore, it is really important to invest time into self-care everyday and to acknowledge the positive things that you give to the universe. This list is concrete evidence that you are enough, you are a good person, you are achieving things… It can be referred to when you are doubting yourself and the progress you’ve made.
Learning about the charity which you are volunteering for can give you a more positive outlook on life. As you can put your worries into perspective, after realising that other people in the world are less fortunate than yourself. Additionally, this creates the opportunity to find gratitude for the things that we have, for example: being in good health.
The quote below describes how a positive outlook and perspective can change the way that you view things, for the better. If you are able to catch yourself in a negative thought or belief, try to change it into a positive one. For example, instead of saying ‘I don’t like the colour of my coat’ say ‘I am thankful to have a coat that keeps me warm’.
‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change’ -Unknown
Volunteering brings a sense of purpose, because on one day every week when the clock hits 4pm lets say, you are needed. It is such a rewarding use of your time, which emphasises that you are in this world for a reason: to make a difference. Being a volunteer goes beyond individual gain; it means something to more than just yourself and that’s the real beauty of it.
Giving something back to society can become a part of your routine, and create structure in your diary. Availability is determined by you, and there is no long-term commitment if you don’t want there to be. This time slot can help to distract you from negative thoughts and feelings. It can also be something to look forward to and to get you through difficult days of the week.
Further benefits of volunteering
There are even more benefits of volunteering, which are unrelated to your mental health!
- Firstly, volunteering can increase your confidence, which means that you will feel increasingly comfortable conversing with strangers. This is a really valuable quality to have and can prepare you for paid future work.
- Volunteering in your own time looks amazing on your curriculum vitae (CV). Additionally, it communicates to future employers that you’re hard-working and dedicated, which puts you at an advantage over other people.
- In 2014, when I started to volunteer, I made new friendships including a fellow blogger: Jade who you may know better as pintsizepixie.
She kindly spoke to me about her time as a volunteer. ‘When I first started volunteering for my local charity shop, I was fresh out of college with little to no people skills as well as a hefty amount of crippling anxiety. The thought of mixing with members of the public (rather than those who I knew and felt comfortable with) was enough to fill me with dread! So much that I would be physically sick for around the first month. Slowly but surely I began to come out of my shell, and although my anxiety did remain, it became easier and easier over time!’
‘I have made new friends, learnt new skills that have been irreplaceable later in life and most importantly it got me out of the house and out of my little bubble of anxiety. Before I volunteered I had no self confidence and the smallest of things could trigger an anxiety attack. Nowadays I’m far happier in myself, have more confidence and have also made lifelong friendships that have contributed to me slowly but surely gaining a better understanding of my mental health and how to manage it.’
Have you experienced volunteering? Is it something that you would try? Let me know in the comments!
See you on Friday for a brand new blog post!
Love Casey x