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“The More You Give, The More You Get”?

It’s often said that it’s better to give than receive but did you know that this is actually backed up by research? Giving is one of the tried and tested five steps to wellbeing.  

Evidence shows that helping others is actually beneficial for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your emotional wellbeing and even benefit your physical health. 

There are many different ways that you can help others as part of your everyday life. Carrying out good deeds doesn’t need to take a lot of time or even cost money. Small changes can make a big difference.

It could be through;

  • Volunteering
  • Peer Mentoring
  • Doing something for a good cause
  • Random acts of kindness

Helping others generally feels good

When you help others, it encourages positive changes in the brain which are associated with happiness.  Helping others improves social support, encourages us to lead a more physically active lifestyle, distracts us from our own problems, allows us to engage in a meaningful activity and improves our self-esteem and competence.

Helping others brings a sense of belonging and reduces isolation

Being a part of a social network leads to a feeling of belonging. Face-to-face activities such as volunteering at a drop-in centre can help reduce loneliness and isolation.

Helping others helps to keep things in perspective

Many people don’t realise the impact that a different perspective can have on their outlook on life.

Helping others in need, especially those who are less fortunate than yourself, can provide a real sense of perspective and make you realise how lucky you are, enabling you to stop focusing on what you feel you are missing – helping you to achieve a more positive outlook on the things that may be causing you stress.

It helps make the world a happier place – it’s contagious!

Acts of kindness have the potential to make the world a happier place. An act of kindness can improve confidence, control, happiness and optimism. It can also encourage others to repeat the good deed that they’ve experienced themselves – it contributes to a more positive community.

The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself

Evidence shows that the benefits of helping others can last long after the act itself by providing a ‘kindness bank’ of memories that can be drawn upon in the future.Doing things for others also helps maintain good overall health.  Positive emotions reduce stress and boost our immune system, and in turn can protect us against disease. Doing things for others can help us get rid of emotions such as anger, aggression or hostility which have a negative impact on our mind and body. It’s even said thatgiving and helping others may increase how long we live. Studies of older people show that those who give support to others live longer than those who don’t!

A really generous act of giving is peer support.

Peer support is when people use their own experiences to help each other.

Types of peer support that exist for supporting mental health and wellbeing could be;

  • community groups
  • mentoring
  • befriending
  • self-help groups
  • online communities
  • support groups

Support is based on sharing experiences and agreeing a reason for meeting. How you choose to meet up or connect with people is very flexible and depends on your personal preferences. Peer support can improve your emotional health, wellbeing and sense of belonging.

A vital part of peer support is mutual respect. Respect means we have high regard or admiration for another’s views and feelings. We value their abilities and inner qualities. Respect is a two way street, when we give it out we get it in return. When we respect each other, we learn to believe in ourselves. We feel valued and loved.

Peer support is also a two way street that aims to help both those giving and receiving support. Everyone’s experiences are treated as equally important.

Talking to people who have been through similar challenges may:

  • help you to talk about what you are feeling and experiencing
  • help you share suggestions for coping techniques and support options
  • introduce you to ideas and approaches that have been helpful to others
  • reassure you that you’re not the only person who has felt like this
  • increase your self esteem and confidence over time help you see how common mental health problems are, and that everyone experiencing them deserves support
  • provide a sense of belonging to a community of people with similar experiences
  • give you a safety net to turn to at difficult times or if you’re at risk of crisis
  • help you to find support that’s right for you
  • help you feel more empowered about your own wellbeing, if you feel disillusioned with the support you’ve received so far

What types of peer support are there?

Peer support can take many forms. While the ways people connect can vary, the most important part of peer support is that you feel heard and supported by others.

All good peer support should include:

A sense of purpose: everyone involved knows what you’re working towards.

Everyone both gives and receives support.  How much you give and receive will vary over time.

Participants sharing their experience of mental health problems.

Online peer support

Online peer support offers lots of choices: when, where and how much you use it is up to you. It can be moderated (by volunteers or trained staff) or unmoderated. You might use:

Social media sites like Facebook or Twitter where people can share their experiences in public or closed groups

Communities dedicated to online support such as Mind’s Side by Side.

One-to-one peer support

One-to-one peer support can also be called mentoring or befriending.

Everyone needs other people, but not everyone has someone. For people who become isolated for whatever reason, being matched with a befriender often fills a big gap. Dorset Mind offers a befriending Service for young people age 14-18 with the aim of to improving quality of life, reducing isolation, and increasing confidence and self-esteem. Volunteer befrienders provide support of an hour a week. You can access the Wellbeing Check – in service here.

Can I become a peer supporter?

There are often peer support programmes running in school, it’s worth asking your tutor if there are any you can volunteer with.

Peer Support in Schools:

Starting up a lunch club or a school group can be an excellent idea. It can serve numerous purposes for example, it can help students to find new friends or simply someone to talk to, and lunch clubs can also be used as a break to get away from studying. The beauty about starting up a lunch club is the fact it can be personalised to your school and your fellow student’s needs.

However, it is important to remember that this is a safe place for you and the students to attend. Due to this, it is essential to remember that some students may wish to disclose personal information. Therefore it is your responsibility to ensure confidentially is kept. Likewise, it is also your duty and responsibility to pass on any endangering information to a teacher, where you think a student is at risk to themselves or others.

What activities could lunch clubs involve?

Your lunch activities can be based on a variety of things. You may wish to have some educating lunch clubs where you focus on self-care tips. This may involve teaching others about their Wellbeing Toolkit or showing quick tips for exam seasons for example. You likewise may also want to use the lunch club as a retreat where calming activities may take place for example, relaxation and mindfulness. However, other activities can further include: watching a film, playing board games, sports, or gardening.

It is recommended to hold a class vote on the types of activities the students wish to take place and feel they would benefit from. An example timetable is shown below:

21/09Mindfulness and Yoga
28/09Film DVD (it is usually better to offer a choice of films and then to collect a vote).
05/10Developing Emotional Resilience
19/10Food – how it affects our mood

Whilst starting a lunch club can be seen as a responsible role to some people, the main important thing is to try to have fun! If you do start to feel overwhelmed you should try to get some extra support from peers, staff, and if need be some school councillors. There will be lots of people there to support and encourage you. The aim of the lunch club is to relax and to enjoy, this includes you as well as the students who attend!

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