This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and we would like to discuss how volunteering promotes positive mental health. The theme this year is ‘loneliness’. The week aims to raise awareness of the impact of loneliness on our mental health and to focus on ways we can all come together, both as individuals and as communities, to find support.
Here at Doorstep Library, we know that our volunteers make a real difference to the lives of the children and families they visit. Over the past 10 years, we have worked with hundreds of volunteers who have had a tremendous impact both on the growth of the charity, and on the families we support. We know that many families can feel isolated, particularly so during the pandemic, and our volunteers visit each week, bringing books and lending a listening ear. They also signpost to other local services, helping families to connect to their local community.
This week we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on how volunteering not only impacts positively on those in need of support, but also helps to promote positive mental health in the volunteers themselves. Volunteering is a unique yet powerful tool which enables people to feel more connected to others and provides a real sense of fulfilment.
Mental Health Awareness Week is particularly important this year due to the psychological impact of the pandemic. We have all been affected in some way by the isolation of multiple lockdowns and so many people have experienced increased feelings of loneliness. It is therefore more important than ever that we come together to shine a light on ways in which we can improve our mental health and overall wellbeing.
How Does Volunteering Promote Positive Mental Health?
Volunteering can change lives
Whatever the cause you are interested in, volunteering can have a positive impact. It enables you to take positive action and shape the world you want to live in. By giving your time to an organisation or cause that you value, you can make a real difference to the lives of others. This in turn adds to your own confidence and feelings of self-worth.
As a Doorstep Library reading volunteer, you share the magic and joy of books and reading with families who need our support. We know that the children who take part in our reading service develop confidence and become much stronger readers. Our impact is long-lasting and for us, the happy-ever-after is knowing we have helped to change a child’s story and their opportunities in life.
Being part of a child’s story and impacting on a child’s life, in even the smallest way, can bring a huge sense of personal achievement and wellbeing.
- 90% of volunteers feel they make a difference through their volunteering. NCVO Report – Time Well Spent
Volunteering brings people together
One of the most well known and important mental health benefits of volunteering is the impact it can have on your sense of connectedness. Volunteering helps you to feel more connected to other people. This can be to other volunteers, or to the people you are supporting when volunteering, as well as feeling connected to the cause you are supporting. These all work hand in hand in helping you to feel a part of something special and a part of a wider community.
As a Doorstep Library volunteer, there are many opportunities for you to meet and work with lots of different people. Whether that’s with other volunteers, the families you read with or the staff who support you along the way. As a Doorstep Library volunteer you will have the opportunity to develop and build many meaningful relationships. These are vital for a sense of connectedness which can help to reduce feelings of loneliness or isolation.
- 98% of our volunteers say that volunteering with Doorstep Library makes them feel more connected to their local community. Doorstep Library Impact Report 2020
- 68% of recent volunteers agree their volunteering helps them feel less isolated. NCVO Report – Time Well Spent
Volunteering is a lot of fun
We know that volunteering can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling but sometimes we forget that volunteering can also be a lot of fun! It gives you time to escape from your often busy day-to-day life and allows you to try something new and exciting.
As a Doorstep Library volunteer you have the opportunity to explore your inner child by revisiting and reading books that shaped your childhood, and also discovering new ones. Our reading sessions are first and foremost about having fun. You can share your passion for books and reading with the children and families you support. You can use silly voices to bring characters to life, you can play games around the pictures and every reading session is always filled with joy and laughter.
Having the opportunity to be silly and to have a real laugh is proven to make you feel happier. Volunteering can do just that!
Volunteering helps to bring routine
So many of us during the pandemic were outside of our regular routine and since then have really valued a return to familiarity and structure. Volunteering on a regular basis can help to create routine and structure in your life, providing you with mental stimulation and a real sense of purpose.
Having a routine can promote positive mental health as it provides you with stability and comfort, helping you when you might be feeling overwhelmed by the day to day expectations and pressures of life.
Whether in person or online, being a regular reading volunteer gives you the opportunity to volunteer at the same time on the same day each week. You also have the same volunteer partner and visit the same children and families each time you volunteer. This can bring a structure to your week that is really valuable.
Volunteering can promote better physical health
Our mental health and physical health often go hand in hand and there is a lot of research on the positive mental health benefits of doing regular physical activity. Depending on the kind of volunteering you opt for, some experiences can help you to be more active, getting out and about, visiting new and exciting places.
As a Doorstep Library Home Reading Volunteers you will meet other volunteers at a project base and then go out in pairs to visit family homes across local estates. This means you are often outdoors, being active, as well as getting familiar with your local community.
Whatever volunteering option you choose – we believe that volunteering can promote positive mental health, helping you to lead a healthier and happier life!
As part of Mental Health Awareness week we have put together a short video of some of our incredible volunteers telling us why volunteering with Doorstep Library makes them happy and celebrating some of their favourite parts of volunteering. Find out what they have to say here.
We obviously couldn’t encourage volunteering enough! If you think volunteering might be for you then please do get in touch. We would love to talk to you about the different volunteering opportunities we have at Doorstep Library. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit volunteer.doorsteplibrary.org.uk for further information.
For more information about the benefits of volunteering with Doorstep Library see: Blog: A new year, a new opportunity
To find out more about the benefits of volunteering visit: NCVO – Why Volunteer?