Mentally Nourished through Volunteering
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and the CPP team could not be more jazzed to share some ways how being in the great outdoors can do wonders for you mental wellbeing. And we want to share another unique way to boost your mood that might surprise you!
We are all on our own mental health journeys, so feel free to take what you need from this blog post. We included some scientific research, ideas, and helpful resources. We know mental health can be a difficult and trigger some topic, so if you want to just breeze through and read the lighter stuff - go ahead and skim😊
What Do Nature and Mental Health Have in Common?
It has been scientifically researched and studied that being in nature and participating in an activity such as walking, hiking, biking, swimming, or anything that get your body moving in nature can be psychologically healing, mood boosting, and reduce stress and anxiety (McQuillan, 2019). It’s important to note that these studies acknowledge that outdoor recreation is not a cure to mental illnesses such as depression or PTSD, but this type of activity could have therapeutic potential in the treatment of these types of mental illnesses (McQuillan, 2019).
Some of the many benefits of spending time in the great outdoors include (Mind.org.UK, 2021):
reduce feelings of stress or anger
increase Vitamin D levels
help you take time out and feel more relaxed
improve your confidence and self-esteem
encourage you be more active
boost faster healing
connect you to your local community
help you meet and get to know new people
help you feel more connected to nature
The great thing about spending time outside is that it doesn’t have to be an extravagant activity; simply walking out your front doorstep and stopping to appreciate the nature that you walk by every day can be healing.
Volunteering and Mental Health
There’s one other thing that has been shown to have improvements in mental health, and it’s not always the most popular topic when it comes to self-care tips: volunteering!
You heard that right - helping other people has been scientifically shown to have improvements in your own mental health by releasing dopamine in the brain (mayoclinichealthsystem.org). You may have heard of the term “helper’s high” - it’s that warm fuzzy feeling you get after volunteering to help others, and there’s science to back it! Volunteering can:
Improve overall health
Develop a sense of purpose
Volunteering comes in many forms. It doesn’t have to be serving food at a shelter or making blankets for a local hospital (although these are amazing ways to help!) - it can be a way for you to utilize your skills and passions. Do you like graphic design? Find a nonprofit that does work you care about and see if they need any content to share their mission. Are you a lawyer? Volunteer to provide legal advice for a community organization. And don’t feel bad about making your volunteer activity enjoyable and worthwhile for you! The benefits of volunteering goes both ways.
Similar to going outside, volunteering doesn’t have to be a big event. It can be little random acts of kindness that you fit into your daily schedule.