”I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap” - Ani DiFranco
In divisive times, community spirit can keep us together - and it’s good for the wider world and for us individually, too. Helping others can reduce your stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health. That’s not to say that altruism isn’t a virtue, but there are benefits greater than just the warm fuzzies of helping someone out.
There is some evidence to suggest that when you help others, it can promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness. It can also improve our support networks and encourage us to be more active, improve our self-esteem, create a sense of belonging and reduces isolation, as well as helping to keep things in perspective - one of the key areas of stress reduction according to the UK Mental Health Foundation.
While donations to charity shops and food banks are always welcome, here’s some of our favourite alternative ways that you can help others and help yourself, too.
Lonely this christmas?
Age UK run a scheme that sees more than 25,000 volunteers make every day a little brighter for older people. From helping someone regain confidence after a fall to delivering meals for people with mobility issues, there are lots of ways to get involved. Befriending a lonely or isolated person is just one of them, but depending on your interests, you can also lead fitness groups, cook lunch or run musical therapy sessions… or even suggest your own.
Small things like litter picking and gardening can help to make your local area a nicer place to live for everyone, and is shown to help calm an overactive mind. Keep Britain Tidy help connect #LitterHeroes to organise clean-ups in their communities, ideal for people who don’t have a consistent schedule to get involved when they’re free.
Back to nature
Fill your lungs with fresh air and help maintain our cultural heritage by donating some time to the National Trust. They organise over 400 working holidays to help preserve places of historic interest or natural beauty across the UK, as well as a longterm volunteer scheme for those who want to get more involved. Activities include countryside conservation, wildlife surveys and architectural preservation.
Into the blue
More of a water baby than a country bumpkin? Head up to the Hebrides and work with Earthwatch, who survey whales and dolphins to improve their conservation. Based on Outer Moray Firth, teams are even called upon to help with live whale or dolphin strandings if the need arises. Helping our fellow mammals isn’t limited to those of us with two legs!