Recently, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand’s wellbeing budget, a world-first approach indexing the country’s prosperity to improved wellbeing and not just financial prosperity.
New Zealand’s innovative approach to budgeting has attracted global attention and praise. Several areas have been called out as areas of focus in the wellbeing budget however, as anticipated, the lion’s share of the investment boost has been directed towards improving the mental health of New Zealanders.
Globally, levels of depression and anxiety are rising and not surprisingly, we are seeing the same thing here in New Zealand. The 2016/17 New Zealand Health Survey found that one in six New Zealand adults have been diagnosed with a common mental disorder at some time in their lives, including depression, bipolar and anxiety disorders1.
Whilst is it encouraging to see that mental health is now being given the focus it needs at a national level, there are also ways in which we can tackle mental health needs at a personal level.
One area proven to improve individual mental health is volunteering, which is linked to relieving stress and alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. By spending time helping others, we simultaneously enrich our own personal wellbeing, increase feelings of self-worth and forge deeper connections with others.
Feeling valued and needed
Volunteering can make us feel more valued and importantly, needed The idea that there are people in our lives who need us and for whom we can genuinely make a difference has an incredibly positive influence on the way we feel about ourselves. Feeling needed is universally recognised as one the greatest feelings there is.
Making connections with others
Through volunteering, we are more likely to meet new people with whom we share common interests and values whilst exposing us to new inspiring ideas and ways of thinking.
Having a regular volunteering commitment requires you to take that big step and get out and about Many may take this for granted, but for somebody with mental illness, the idea of just leaving the house can feel like an insurmountable obstacle By committing to others, we are more likely to leave the house to mix with others, many of whom we will share common interests and values.
What we think about ourselves can have a powerful effect on how we feel about ourselves Through volunteering, knowing that you are valued by others can help you see yourself in a more positive light and help you recognise your own positive attributes Being helpful and valued is a great way to build self-esteem.
One of the most encouraging aspects of the Government’s wellbeing budget is the light it shines on mental health in this country. In this spirit, if you know of somebody with mental health issues, why not have a conversation with them around the positive connection between volunteering and improved mental wellbeing? Whilst it’s certainly not a ‘quick fix’ to what is a serious and complex medical condition, the positive benefits of volunteering on mental wellbeing are well-known and worth considering.
Get started now – start your search on SEEK Volunteer.