It’s easy to get so busy with life that we forget to take a moment and check-in with ourselves, to see how we’re feeling. And if you can do with some uplifting, you may be surprised to know that volunteering could be the thing to help you. Almost as much as it does those you’d be helping through your community initiative.
Knowing that we’re able to make a difference reminds us that our lives can be full of purpose and meaning, which takes us beyond the confinements of our problems. Perhaps this is why it’s effective in helping to improve mental health, reducing stress and tackling depression. Rather than having all the time in the world to dwell on what’s wrong in your life, getting involved in community initiatives offers an opportunity to get a new perspective. And the more volunteering you do, the more benefits you’ll get from it. Here are just a few:
Benefits Of Getting Involved In Community Initiatives
Improved Mental Health
As mentioned above, you can improve your mental health and happiness by giving up some of your time to help others. Knowing how your doing good in the community has had a tangibly positive effect on someone else, provides a natural sense of accomplishment. The more time you spend volunteering, the happier you’re likely to feel.
Meeting New People
In addition to the measurable benefits received by people you help through volunteering, one of the most important things experienced is a stronger sense of community. You’re able to make friends with fellow community initiative workers, and you may also befriend the people you help. What’s more, socialising plays a big part in having good mental health. Being connected lessens feelings of isolation that many people experience, regardless of age. This is why befriending volunteering projects are so popular today.
New connections have the power of transcending social groups that may typically be divided across ethnic, class and geographic lines. In doing so, it creates a wonderful possibility of helping people realise their neighbours are nicer and easier to trust than they thought. It can also shed light on just how similar people from different backgrounds may well be.
Developing New Skills & Building Existing Ones
Whether you’re in your teens or silver-surfer years, it’s never too early or late to develop new skills. Volunteering for community initiatives is a great way to learn new skills. You can also improve the ones you already have, be it from specific training or even by taking part. If you’re giving your time to a women’s shelter, for example, you may become experienced at crisis counselling, for instance. Or, if you volunteer at a local museum, you might become a knowledgeable art historian.
Perhaps you already have excellent sales skills from working in a sales position. If you find a community initiative you’re passionate about, you could even share it with people at work. Doing this would develop your public speaking and persuasive selling techniques even more. All the while, raising awareness of your cause.
Plus, learning new skills is another good health benefit, as it helps your brain to develop new neural pathways!
Having New Experiences
It’s easy to become accustomed to our regular routines in our own small parts of the world. Perhaps, the thought of embarking on new experiences and meeting new people could make you slightly nervous and apprehensive. But taking part in an initiative is a brilliant means of overcoming that. It will be a very positive way to break out of your rut, see and do new things, and find people who similar to you, are looking to do something meaningful.
Making A Significant Impact In Your Community
Depending on the type of initiative it is, the community will benefit from the kind of work you’re volunteering to do. So, you could decide to help to clear litter, tend to a community garden, serve at a soup kitchen, offer help fixing bicycles and so on. No matter what type of volunteer work you choose to do, the direct benefit to those you are helping will be clear.
Considering how beneficial getting involved in community initiatives is, it’s funny that we can feel like we have such little time to do it. But it needn’t be a massive commitment that swallows up your diary. It’s simply about finding the right match for you. Once you do, you'll be able to find new friends and get more connected to your community. You'd learn skills and develop a more well-rounded life, all within the amount of time you choose to dedicate to a project.
Where and How to Volunteer
There are several ways to get involved with your community and give your time to help others. If you need guidance choosing the right project for you, these organisations serve as a good starting point. Do-it.org is a database of over 1 million volunteering opportunities across the UK. It allows you to filter your search by interest, activity and location. To do an area-specific search, you can look up the following to find opportunities in your area:
- Volunteering England
- Volunteer Scotland
- Volunteering Wales
- Jersey Charities
- Guernsey Charities
- Volunteering Matters
How do You Start a Community Initiative?
Perhaps you’re particularly passionate about a specific cause, and you have a business idea that you believe could be an effective way of challenging some of the problems in this area. If so, have you considered starting your own initiative?
Community businesses that are set up and run by the local community tend to be resilient and generate a deeper level of support. Although it may seem like a challenging task to take on, there are plenty of other people who have done just that. They've managed to set up trading and locally-led organisations. Hence, why there are now 7000 community-led businesses (and counting) across the UK, demonstrating it's achievable with the right advice and support.
An excellent first step is to contact your local council or local enterprise council. Also, get in touch with other community businesses that are local to you. They'll give you all the information on the kinds of partnerships and support they may be able to offer.
You may choose to become more active in your community by joining an initiative or starting one of your own. Whichever you decide is best, there are several options at your disposal. And there are plenty more benefits to yourself and the whole community than you may have thought initially.