Volunteering: How doing good can do you good

‘Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together, that overwhelm the world.’ Desmond Tutu DD FKC (Theology, 1965)

Giving back to society and to our community is an important part of what we do at King's. In fact we were founded in 1829 to do just that - to serve society - and our students, staff and alumni have been making the world a better place ever since.

Every year, thousands of you, our alumni, volunteer by sharing your time, expertise and connections to help others. Volunteering can be a great way to learn new skills, develop experience and meet others. But did you know that, even better, research shows that doing good can do you good.

Helping others makes you happier

Doing things for others can both help reduce negative emotions, such as anger and hostility, and have a positive physiological effect on the brain. We’ve all experienced that rush of good feeling when you help someone in need. The research also shows that this short-term positive effect can be followed by longer periods of calm that eventually lead to better general wellbeing.

Doing good is good for you

While taking on too much may be stressful, taking time to help others within your means can lead to a reduction in stress levels. It both improves your emotional well-being and provides a greater perspective on your own problems. Positive emotional states also help boost the immune system. In fact, doing good might even help you live longer – studies of older people have shown that those who support others live longer than those that don’t.

Kindness is contagious

Research shows that recipients of acts of kindness are themselves more likely to act kindly to others – so your one small good deed could lead to many more. Next time somebody does something nice for you perhaps you could look for a way to ‘pay it forward’?

Top tips

  • Do something you enjoy. You’re much more likely to stick to a commitment you actually enjoy (and it’s bound to make you happier whilst you do it too). So if you like running, you could train for a charity run, or if you’re never happier than when hitting the shops, why not help an elderly neighbour with theirs?
  • Don’t overdo it. Trying to do too much will have a negative impact on your own well-being. It’s important to think about what you can realistically achieve when planning your good deeds.
  • Keep a good deed diary. The benefits of helping others can have a long-lasting effect. A great way of reflecting on your own experiences is to keep a diary of your good deeds and the good things done for you.
  • Volunteer with King’s alumni. We have lots of volunteering opportunities, from helping at events to mentoring students and recent graduates. Whether you have 10 minutes or a few hours to spare, it's easy to get involved.
  • Take part in our Global Day of Service. Join thousands of alumni across the world this March, to make a difference in your community. 

The evidence shows that there are great benefits to making room for helping others. This doesn’t have to mean taking on a lot of difficult extra commitments, keep an eye out for the small things you could do to make a difference in the world around you.

This article draws on research from the Mental Health Foundation.