This year marks the 16th anniversary of Student Volunteering Week, organised by the Student Volunteering Network, with support from Student Hubs and the National Union of Students.
This week will see students and staff from all over the UK getting involved in some form of volunteering activity. The theme this year is ‘Participate, Collaborate, Celebrate’, and we’re hoping to do just that – by showing you all that’s great about volunteering.
So, we discuss how volunteering can make you happy, with certified coach, professional organiser and study skills consultant Juliet Landau-Pope.
Volunteering isn’t new – the word itself was coined centuries ago – but recent evidence emerging from neuroscience and other scientific fields is casting new light on the benefits. Studies show that people who routinely participate in volunteer activities are likely to live longer and better: they’re less prone to anxiety and have better strategies for dealing with setbacks at home or at work.
But, how relevant are these findings to students and young adults? And can volunteering help YOU to be happier?
Did you know that giving to others activates the ‘reward centre’ of your brain which makes you feel good? A smile, a gesture, or a kind word can lift your mood. Likewise, sharing your time, energy or skills with others can help to reduce stress and makes you feel better about yourself and the people around you.
Whatever your role as a volunteer, it’s often an ideal way to make new friends with people who share your values and to get more involved with your local community. It’s often an opportunity to network with people who can help you to take the next step in your career. Nurturing these social and professional connections is also a powerful way to enhance your own well-being.
Whether you help in a charity shop, fund-raise for a local cause or visit a care home, you’ll encounter new situations and develop skills that are transferable to other spheres of your life. Some, such as time management, budgeting and working with a team, might contribute to your employability. Learning to do new things and accomplishing new tasks also boosts happiness.
Whatever the size of the organisation or the scale of the project, volunteering can be fulfilling because it strengthens your sense of purpose. Working towards goals can be very motivating – and achieving goals that make a difference to individuals or communities can be uplifting. Ultimately, volunteering can help you to focus on the bigger question and to experience more meaning in your life.
To find out more about volunteering, including other benefits and ways to get involved, visit our volunteering page!