Volunteering and your mental health

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The State of Nature 2019 report published last week, produced some rather bleak statistics regarding our natural environment and wildlife in the UK.

However, at The Conservation Volunteers, there was one statistic in particular that stood out as a positive for us; a 46% increase in the time donated by volunteers since 2000 in the conservation of UK greenspaces.

Conserving our greenspaces is something that we’re extremely passionate about, but we are also passionate about the work we do having positive outcomes for both the environment and our volunteers.

The Mental Health Foundation reports that by helping others, you promote positive physiological changes in the brain associated with happiness. Volunteering also allows people to be part of a social network, which leads to a feeling of belonging.

For me, the social and community aspects of volunteering have been the most notable. Years of isolation had severely blunted my ability to interact with people socially, but Green Gym has provided a safe environment for me to relearn the skills I’d lost.

Mark, Green Gym volunteer

Volunteering can also provide a welcome distraction for those who experience mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression (Source). Being outside and doing something different can allow you to step outside of your own mind, even if only for a short while.

“The Conservation Volunteers have given me a reason to get up in the morning and keep myself active and healthy while putting something back into my local community.”

Pam Evans, 2012 TCV Conservation Volunteer of the Year Winner

The loss of social roles and isolation can be a detrimental side effect of mental illness. Volunteering provides a counteraction to these effects by enabling people to regain social roles and becoming a more integrated member of their community.

It is important to recognise that these side effects of mental health are not always aided by medicine. That’s why TCV are proud to be working with NHS England on social prescribing.

Social prescribing places the person and the community they are part of at the centre of their treatment. It recognises says ‘you are the best person to make yourself feel better’, and our team at TCV will help you to do that.

“There are very powerful, multi-sensory stimulation from being in contact with nature. We get that from the sounds of the birds; visually and aesthetically from the different textures, the different colours, the feel of the soil, the feel of the different plants, the smells that are constantly around us.”

Dianne Keys, TCV Operations Leader, Northern Ireland

At TCV, we are grateful to each and every one of our volunteers for the time and energy they put into conserving our greenspaces.

Seeing the lasting positive outcomes on both our greenspaces and our volunteers makes every project and programme unique and special to the local community they are part of.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities in your local area.

Additionally, find out more about the work we do to provide positive health & wellbeing outcomes for our volunteers in the video below.

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