The Impact of Volunteering on Your Mental Health

The Impact of Volunteering on Your Mental Health

Individuals in treatment programs benefit from having healthy ways to fill their free time. Volunteering is one way people give back to their community while improving their mental health. BMC Public Health states, “Research has found that participation in voluntary services is significantly predictive of better mental and physical health, life satisfaction, self-esteem, happiness, lower depressive symptoms, psychological distress, and mortality.” The benefits of volunteering increase the effectiveness of therapy and other treatments. Laguna Shores Recovery Center encourages clients to engage in healthy activities, including community volunteering to improve their mental health.

What Are the Benefits of Volunteering?

Volunteering allows you to meet new people and engage in healthy social interactions while helping others. You gain marketable skills and learn more about your community while providing a necessary service—many volunteer to network and discover individuals or organizations with similar passions and interests. 

Some of the primary benefits of volunteering include:

  • Increased health and well-being
  • Reduced stress
  • Decreased risk of relapse for individuals with co-occurring substance misuse
  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression 
  • Developing additional social skills

Volunteering often motivates and inspires people to continue making progress in their recovery. Another benefit of volunteering during treatment and aftercare is it fills your time with more meaningful activities. In addition, your physical health will improve even if you only volunteer for a few hours a month. According to BMJ Open, “[S]tudies indicate a positive relationship between volunteering and health outcomes such as mental well-being, self-rated health, cardiovascular disease (CVD), risk factors for CVD, disability, mental well-being, and life satisfaction.” You can enjoy the health benefits while helping your community give back to people in need. 

What Are Some Challenges of Volunteering?

Every city has volunteer opportunities. However, sometimes it isn’t easy to find ones you feel passionate about. In addition, volunteering often involves meeting strangers in unfamiliar locations. Individuals recovering from mental health issues related to panic or anxiety may need more time to feel comfortable volunteering with others. People often ease into the experience by starting with just a few hours a month. Most gradually increase how often they volunteer until they feel comfortable. To avoid scheduling conflicts, look for volunteer positions offering more flexible hours if you want to start while attending a treatment program. 

A few additional challenges people face when first volunteering include: 

  • Recognizing personal limits and setting boundaries 
  • Knowing when to say “no” and when to accept requests for additional time or help
  • Making positive social connections  
  • Providing purposeful activities and skill development 
  • Putting their mental and physical health first 
  • Falling back into maladaptive patterns of behavior

You can reduce the risk of falling back into old behavior patterns by engaging in exciting volunteer opportunities and using your coping skills. Set clear boundaries, monitor your mental health, and practice regular self-care using the tools you learn in treatment. 

Some Common Forms of Volunteering

You can volunteer to do almost any type of activity. The variety makes it easier for people in larger cities to give back to the community in a way that feels meaningful to them. 

Some of the more common forms of volunteering include: 

  • Spending time helping local veterans or elderly individuals by providing practical support in the form of transportation, food delivery, or other activities
  • Donating time to local animal rescues 
  • Spending time at homeless shelters 
  • Volunteering to raise money for diseases or other health issues 
  • Donating time, money, food, and toys to children in need

Volunteering is a wonderful way to meet people in your community, build friendships, or jumpstart a new career. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “[C]onsistent research showed that voluntary work could be considered a tool for professional development and concrete employment: volunteering could be either experienced as a desire to improve career opportunities or to acquire new skills.” You can build essential social and work skills while enriching your community. Giving back to others feels more meaningful when you do something that brings you true joy. 

Creating a Volunteer Program, You Feel Passionate About

Some cities have fewer volunteer opportunities. However, if there is a need you feel passionate about and no program to provide it, you can always start your volunteer program. Initiating something that improves the lives of others can help you thrive in recovery. Finding something you care about to focus your time and energy on reduces symptoms like depression and anxiety. In addition, if you don’t have the time or money to start a local volunteer program, you can turn to online opportunities. You can use your skills to help grassroots organizations and nonprofits in communities all over the globe without leaving your living room.

How to Locate Volunteer Programs

Finding volunteer programs is not always easy. You may need to research what opportunities are available in your area. 

A few typical places people look for volunteering include: 

  • Online forums 
  • Local nonprofit organizations 
  • Shelters and resource centers 
  • Churches or other religious and spiritual areas of worship 
  • Advocacy groups and organizations 
  • Disability service centers 

Your case manager at Laguna Shores Recovery Center can help you identify potential volunteer opportunities related to areas you feel passionate about. 

Individuals recovering from the effects of mental health disorders benefit from spending time helping others. Social engagement and positive activities reduce stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. Volunteering a few hours a month can improve your mental health and help you maintain a positive lifestyle. Laguna Shores Recovery Center encourages clients to use activities like volunteering to increase the effectiveness of treatment and aftercare. Many people choose to volunteer for organizations or groups they feel passionate about. You can use the opportunity to meet others who share your interests. Your case manager will help you locate volunteer positions you find exciting. To learn more about our programs, call us today at (866) 774-1532.