Psychology and health research are increasingly showing the positive impact of volunteering on the well-being of volunteers. Indeed, evidence suggests the benefits of volunteering are vast and can touch all areas of our life – from the sense of purpose that comes with being involved in a meaningful activity, improved cognitive function, and increased social interaction. Benefits can even be attributed to volunteering in an outdoor setting specifically.
Contact with nature
Much research is being conducted into the effects of environmental volunteering. Benefits such as increased time in natural surroundings and more physical exercise are unique to those volunteering outside, and these in turn can have a positive impact on the mental health of volunteers.
Research indicates that contact with nature in outdoor volunteering has positive benefits for both mental and physical health. This has been attributed to increased physical activity and reduced stress levels. Furthermore, it has been found that hands-on interaction with nature through volunteering can help individuals suffering from mental illness to reintegrate into society.
A study into the mood effects of exercise found that those who exercised in an outdoor setting experienced greater improvements in mood, attributed by participants to the restorative and calming effect of greenspace.
Sense of Purpose
Meaningful occupation and contribution to society are both necessary for a person’s well-being. The research shows that many volunteers attribute a sense of achievement and meaning to the work they undertake. Indeed, studies have repeatedly shown that volunteers, no matter their age, gain a sense of purpose and improved quality of life through their volunteering activities. Volunteering has also been associated with increased confidence and sense of achievement.
In a study on individuals with mild or moderate dementia, Dr Daniel George of Penn State University in the US found that volunteers reported a renewed sense of purpose and improved quality of life in comparison with those who didn’t undertake volunteering.
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