Volunteering and travel are fantastic for you in so many ways: they can help improve your academic and employment prospects, it gives you a sense of independence, and the experiences you encounter will leave you with amazing memories for years to come. But did you know they are also proven to be great for your mental health?
Helping others helps you
Simply put helping others makes you feel good. When you do something for someone else, no matter how small, it promotes a positive physiological change in the brain which is associated with happiness, similar to the chemical release of eating chocolate, and we all know that chocolate makes you feel great.
Keeps your mind sharp
We are all used to a routine – getting up at the same time, taking the same route to and from school. Each day you know what lessons you are going to have and which after-school activities are planned. This can sometimes get the better of us. However, when in a new country your daily routine will be different, almost every day it will be something new. You will be doing new things, seeing new things and hearing new languages. This all helps to stimulate your brain in a new way, improving your overall concentration and helping improve your memory.
Promotes a sense of belonging
Traveling and volunteering with a group of your peers is great, as it helps promote a sense of belonging and can reduce isolation. Being a part of something with others helps if you are feeling lonely, as you are with people who are just like you and you’re sharing so many new experiences, which aids in building lifelong friendships and strengthens existing relationships.
Makes you happy
The anticipation of an expedition (or holiday) alone can increase your happiness – It’s proven that just the thought of a trip is enough to help improve your mood. However, once you are out there, you will be visiting and working on projects you have been working towards for almost 2 years. This alone is a great achievement and all the work you do while out on expedition will turn into fond and happy memories.
Puts things into perspective
Everything is relative and personal, and no one can ever say that something isn’t important. However, it really does put things into perspective when you visit a third world country where lots of people don’t have access to basic things that we take for granted each day, like clean running water or an education. Experiencing how people live with so much less than yourself can help you look at the stresses and problems in your life with a bit more of an open mind. It helps you to stop focusing on the things you think you are missing and creates a more positive outlook.
Helps reduce the risk of depression and anxiety
There is no one thing that triggers depression, stress or anxiety, and it can be a difficult to experience to go through. However, a change in your environment and a break away from the things you know can effectively lower psychological stresses. It is also great to step away from social media and your phone for a while, which is exactly what you’ll be doing when staying in a remote location, allowing you time to reconnect with your friends and yourself. There is nothing more uplifting than watching the sunrise on a new day over an unspoilt view, or a night spent with your friends laughing and joking around the campfire.
Going on expedition will not only be an incredible adventure, it will also be a great opportunity to take time out for yourself. Enjoy every moment of the experience and you will reap the healthy benefits – the more you put into your trip, the more you’ll get out of it.
Note: Please remember, your mental health is just as crucial as your physical wellbeing and it’s always important to talk to someone if you are ever feeling depressed, sad or stressed. There are lots of people who can help.