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Volun-cheering: SPAR research reveals 67% feel better after giving back to their community

Helping others may be the key to improving wellbeing in the UK

When we think about self care and wellbeing the first thing that comes to mind might not be volunteering and helping others - but new research from SPAR as part of our Community Cashback scheme, has revealed that by volunteering for just a few hours each month you can improve your mental health. 

The study of 2,000 adults in the UK found that two thirds of those who volunteer (67%) believe that volunteering improves their well-being because giving back to others feels good.

A quarter of people looking to volunteer soon added they wanted to get involved to improve their mental health - so how can we help others and help ourselves this summer?

How can I get involved with my community?

Communities have played a vital role in our daily lives over the last few years and there is a big desire to give back to local causes. 

Nearly half (46%) said they would like to get involved in volunteering this year to help others (56%), make a difference (50%), and give back to the community (46%). 

One in ten (12%) said they were desperate to start helping in the near future and on average could dedicate six hours a month to help out. 

Over a third (37%) would like to volunteer to feel more productive with their spare time and the most popular places to help out included outdoor community spaces, food banks, soup kitchens and animal shelters. 

However, despite a passion to get involved many barriers still exist. Almost half of those surveyed (47%) cited a lack of time as a major barrier, with a quarter (24%) claiming difficulty balancing work and family commitments stops them helping out.

What are the positive rewards from giving back? 

With time constraints, family commitments and even finances holding us back from volunteering it’s clear that we might still need that push to get involved.

But by understanding how giving back can lift our mood and boost mental health thanks to the benefits in helping others we can carve out opportunities to do something each month.

Volunteering improves wellbeing

When looking at why volunteering improves wellbeing it was clear that the act of giving back and being part of the community is key with 64% saying giving back to others feels good, 57% saying it feels good to contribute to society and 45% said volunteering gives you a sense of belonging. 

Dr Nishat Babu, a psychologist at Loughborough University and expert in the positive effects of volunteering explains how this works: 

“Research highlights the many benefits of volunteering, including enhanced wellbeing, greater happiness and life satisfaction, and even improved physical health in some cases. So, not only can volunteering in the local community help others, but it can also benefit the volunteer through enhanced wellbeing, as well as a greater sense of belonginess which can be helpful in counteracting loneliness and improving mental health.” 

“We all have a number of commitments in our life which can make it tough to find time to dedicate to volunteering, especially when working full time and managing existing family commitments. It is interesting however that by setting aside some time to volunteer, we can actually benefit our work lives. Research shows it can improve our performance at work and develop our competencies. It can also be a great way to recover from a stressful day at work, improve mood, and also help coping with work stressors.”

How do I do my bit? 

So whilst the benefits of giving back are clear, another barrier to giving time to local causes and doing your bit is the logistics with 17% of people admitting they are unsure what to do to get involved with volunteering. 

The most common volunteering opportunities are in schools (24%), charity shops (21%), at local sports events (19%), and children and youth centres (18%). 

Dr Nishat Babu adds, “There are a number of ways to get involved in volunteering. Take a look at your local community group pages on social media, shop notice boards, or even speak to the company that you work for. Many companies already have corporate volunteering programs which can provide their employees with time during working hours, to engage in volunteering. This is an especially great option for those who feel they are already pressed for time.” 

To find out more visit our community cashback page.

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