Giving for mental wellbeing

Most people would agree that giving to others is a good idea. It shows kindness, support and empathy for others. But when you give to others it can have a direct positive effect on your own mental wellbeing.

Small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones – such as volunteering in your local community – can give you a sense of purpose and make you feel happier and more satisfied about life.

Sometimes, we think of wellbeing in terms of what we have: our comfort, our income, our home, car, or our job. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Positive mental wellbeing means feeling good – about yourself and the world around you – and being able to get on with life in the way you want.

Helping and supporting other people, and working with others towards a shared goal, is good for our mental wellbeing. To give to others is one of the five evidence-based steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. Read more about the five steps for mental wellbeing.

How giving can help your mental wellbeing

Several studies suggest that acts of giving and kindness – small and large – are associated with positive mental wellbeing. For example, a 2004 study in 373 older adults found that many aspects of wellbeing were higher in those who did volunteering projects, compared with those who did not.

Research into the brain has shown that giving and co-operating with others can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, helping to create positive feelings. Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.

Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones, and of course, relationships with others also influence mental wellbeing.

So go on, be really selfish for once. Give to others – for your own mental wellbeing!

How you can give to others

Giving can take many forms, from small everyday acts to larger commitments.

Today, you could:

  • Say thank you to someone, for something they’ve done for you.
  • Phone a relative or friend who needs support or company.
  • Ask a colleague how they are and really listen to the answer.
  • Offer to lend a hand if you see a stranger struggling with bags or a pushchair.

This week, you could:

  • Arrange a day out for you and a friend or relative.
  • Offer to help a relative with DIY or a colleague with a work project.
  • Sign up to a mentoring project, in which you give time and support to someone who will benefit from it.
  • Volunteer in your local community. That might mean helping out at a local school, hospital or care home.

More steps for wellbeing

There are other steps we can all take to improve our mental wellbeing. Learn more about the five steps for mental wellbeing, including:


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