May is Mental Health Awareness Month, a time dedicated to raising consciousness about the importance of mental well-being and shedding light on the various ways to nurture it.
Among the myriad strategies to foster mental health, one often overlooked avenue is volunteering. The act of giving time and energy to others can have profound psychological effects, elevating mental health and emotional well-being.
Connection & Community
Volunteering, at its core, is about connecting with others and contributing to the community.
When we volunteer, we're often working toward a common goal with like-minded individuals, creating a sense of belonging and shared purpose. This is crucial for our mental health.
Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow, stressed that social belonging is a fundamental human need. It's no surprise then, that volunteering, which promotes this sense of community and connection, can help combat feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Volunteering allows us to step outside of our own worries and concerns, offering a perspective that can be both refreshing and humbling.
Volunteering often involves helping those less fortunate or working to improve our communities, tasks that can provide a sense of perspective on our own problems. This shift in focus from self to others can decrease stress and anxiety levels, improving our overall mental health.
The “Helper’s High”
One of the most compelling psychological effects of volunteering is the "helper's high," a state of increased energy and euphoria that comes from aiding others.
This is more than just a fleeting feeling. Biochemically, acts of kindness can stimulate the production of endorphins—the brain's natural painkillers—resulting in a helper's high. Over time, this can lead to improved mood and self-esteem, contributing to overall better mental health.
Volunteering provides a unique platform for personal growth by challenging individuals to step outside their comfort zones and engage in new experiences.
As you navigate unfamiliar tasks and environments, you develop new skills and abilities, gaining a broader perspective of the world around you. This process not only enhances your problem-solving and interpersonal skills but also fosters a sense of self-efficacy and confidence.
The act of helping others and seeing tangible results from your efforts can greatly enhance your self-esteem. Furthermore, volunteering can help you discover and pursue new interests or passions, contributing to a more well-rounded, fulfilling personal life.
Remember, mental health is a journey, not a destination. Volunteering is not a cure-all, and professional help should be sought when necessary. But as part of a holistic approach to mental health, volunteering offers a rewarding and impactful way to improve well-being.
As we focus on mental health this May, let's also consider how we can give back to our communities. The act of volunteering might just be the boost we need, delivering profound benefits to our mental health while making the world a little bit better in the process.
About North Shore Helpers
North Shore Helpers is a 501(c)(3) organization that delivers gifts and holiday cheer to individuals in under-served communities in the Chicago area. Our mission is simple: To change lives in Chicago’s underserved communities by hand-delivering hope and happiness to individuals in need. Inspired by the service of people in our social and professional networking groups, we decided it was time for us to step up and make a difference. “We need to do something,” we collectively said, and before we got organized, we knew that 1) we wanted to change lives and 2) we were going to show up in-person to do so.
For more information, contact us today, and click here to make a donation. To keep up with North Shore Helpers news, please follow us on Facebook.