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Give for mental wellbeing

Five steps to mental wellbeing

Media last reviewed: 06/12/2012

Next review due: 06/12/2014

Most people would agree that giving to others is a good idea. But it can also improve your 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 income, our home or car, or our job. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on mental 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. Giving 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 some aspects of wellbeing were higher in those who did volunteering projects, compared with those who did not.

Brain science has shown that giving to others and co-operating with them 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. Relationships with others also influence mental wellbeing. Read more about connecting for mental wellbeing.

How you can give

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. Find out more about how to volunteer.

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.

You can also learn more about:


Page last reviewed: 16/12/2013

Next review due: 16/12/2015

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