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How Volunteering Helped My Depression

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, June 4, 2018
 Volunteering with Depression
Estimated reading time: 12 minutes


This blog tells the story of Bella Williams’ experience with depression—this may be triggering or cause an adverse reaction for some readers.


You might expect me to preach about the goodness of volunteering—about how and why to give back to your community—but that isn’t what this blog is about. More than doing good for society, I want to show you that volunteering will have a positive impact on you personally. It certainly did for me.

I was 33 and had lost my job after a fight with my boss. I was going to the occasional interview, without success, but pretty soon I ran out of money and had to move in into my parents’ house. The guy I was dating chose to leave me and I hardly ever met with my friends. I was usually fun-loving and talkative but I had become detached and resistant to conversation—probably out of apprehension of discussing my life updates. I wasn’t actually bothering people but I became very conscious to avoid other humans as much as possible. There wasn’t much I could look forward to back then. Months passed by like this and on a cold winter night someone finally told me that I might have depression.

It was only then I realized that depression was not a state of mind or something that could be controlled—I saw how powerfully my emotions took over every aspect of my life. It kept getting worse with time and I felt as if I was standing in quicksand—the more I tried to escape, the deeper I sunk. My mother took me to meet one of her friends who I knew had been depressed for a very long time. She had joined a volunteer community and asked if I was willing to spare some time to help. I couldn’t say no to such a good family friend, she had fed me too many cookies while I was growing up. Besides, I was convinced I would function so poorly that she would inevitably have to ask me to leave.

What exactly happened from that day on is too long a story to tell here. But writing here now I know that I’m doing much better, that I have survived the darkest phase of my life. At the very least, I’m able to laugh at my father’s jokes and hold beautiful conversations with strangers too. Here is how and why Volunteering helped me fight my depression: 


Making a commitment gave me responsibility and purpose.

Whether you’re volunteering once a month or once a day every small step matters. Committing to a cause that I seriously believed in made me accountable to other people that I knew I couldn’t take for granted—I was expected me to show up on time and perform to the best of my abilities. This accountability started making me feel more responsible and this new-found sense of responsibility was a green light—I began to see the world outside of myself. I became motivated to contribute more of my time, committing more deeply. Working at the grassroots level of the problem made see things more closely and helped me become a great volunteer.


A regular routine built my confidence and sense of accomplishment.

My volunteering provided a structure and regular routine to my life that, in turn, gave me a sense of purpose—something that was unusual for me during this phase of my life. Working with other people and seeing how effectively I was performing also started improving my self-confidence, I felt more sure of myself. People around me would appreciate my work, making me feel needed and happy.

Volunteering required regularly interacting with strangers, something that I wasn’t very comfortable with. I overcame my apprehension thanks to my increased confidence and the sense of the greater cause that I was working for and felt even better as a result.

The slightest of positive emotions played big roles during this phase of my life. The feeling I have when I’m working for the good of others is very different from the feeling I had when I was working for money.


I began managing myself and my emotions.

I knew that volunteering meant that there would be people around me on a regular basis. I started putting efforts into my presentation, putting my best self forward by starting to dress and speak well. Spending my time volunteering on a regular basis also gave me something meaningful to focus on, keeping my mind away from the negative thoughts I used to have. I felt myself becoming more patient and empathetic as a result.

Of course, I would still have bouts of emotions that brought tears to my eyes. But luckily for me, I had people who were helpful and gave me the space I needed. That meant a lot to me. I started to value human emotions more and worked harder to understand and manage my emotions around people. I don’t know about others but I believe that having a strong support system is what helped me most in fighting depression.


I know it’s easier said than done and I’m not saying that you’ll be able to address depression in a flash. I was determined and found a purpose to work for that I believed in—it took small baby steps, but I did come out through the tunnel successfully.


Tags:  How to start volunteering  Mental Health  Volunteer  Volunteering 

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