Why Volunteer?: The Five Ways to Wellbeing

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The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based(1) public mental health messages aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. The five ways to wellbeing are well known to be strongly associated with volunteering. A recent NCVO (2) study also found that the main reasons for volunteering were for the benefits of physical and mental well being.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing are: 


Participation in social and community life has attracted a lot of attention in the field of wellbeing research. Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. Research into actions for promoting happiness has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing.

Be active                                                                         

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. Exercise is essential for slowing age-related cognitive decline and for promoting well-being.


Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the opportunity to engage in work or educational activities particularly helps to lift older people out of depression.

The practice of setting goals, which is related to adult learning in particular, has been strongly associated with higher levels of wellbeing.


There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world.  

It is clear that social relationships are critical for promoting wellbeing and for acting as a buffer against mental ill health for people of all ages.

Take notice

Remembering to ‘take notice’ can strengthen and broaden awareness. Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm life priorities. Heightened awareness also enhances self-understanding and allows positive choices based on individual values and motivations.



(1) They were developed by the New Economics Foundation as the result of a commission by Foresight, the UK government‟s futures think-tank, as part of the Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Wellbeing.

(2) https://www.ncvo.org.uk/images/documents/policy_and_research/volunteering/Volunteer-experience_Summary.pdf


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